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February Newsletter: Gaming and Digital Eye Strain

The glasses of a gamer with digital eye strain

Do Your Eyes Feel Sore After a Gaming Session? Digital Eye Strain Could Be to Blame

Digital eye strain, also called computer vision syndrome, is a common complaint among gamers and people who use digital screens. In fact, almost 60% of adults who responded to a Vision Council survey reported symptoms of digital eye strain. Luckily, making a few changes to your gaming habits may reduce your risk of developing the uncomfortable vision problem.

Digital Eye Strain Symptoms

Sore, burning, irritated eyes aren't the only symptoms of digital eye strain. After gaming for a few hours, you may notice that your neck and shoulders are tight and painful. More than 35% of adult Vision Council survey respondents said they experienced those painful symptoms. Headaches (27.7%), blurred vision (27.9%) and dry eyes (27.2%) were other frequently reported symptoms.

In addition to physical symptoms, parents reported troubling behavioral issues after their children used screens for two or more hours. Reduced attention span was the chief complaint at 15.2%, followed closely by irritability (13.5%) and poor behavior (13.3%)

So why is playing video games so tough on your eyes? Eye doctors believe that digital eye strain symptoms are related to these issues:

  • Sharpness. Tiny pixels make up the words and animations you see on the screen. Unfortunately, the pixelated images and words aren't nearly as sharp as words printed in a book. Although you may not notice the difference when you're immersed in a game, your eyes will. They'll have to work harder to focus on the virtual world in front of them.
  • Glare. Glare can be difficult to avoid when you're playing a game, depending on the time of the day and available lighting.
  • Contrast. Poor contrast between objects in the foreground and background also strain your eyes.
  • Viewing Distance and Posture. Sitting too close or far from the screen or your position when you view the screen can be contributing factors in digital eye strain.
  • Not Enough Blinking. Blinking is essential for eye comfort. Every time you blink, a film of tears coats your eyes and helps keep them moist. When people look at digital screens, they tend to blink less, which increases the risk of digital eye strain.
  • Vision Problems. If your eyeglass prescription isn't up-to-date or you have trouble seeing but haven't gotten around to getting glasses or contact lenses, you may be more likely to notice digital eye strain symptoms. Other vision problems may also play a role in digital eye strain. For example, a focusing problem or misaligned eyes could increase your digital eye strain risk. If eye strain symptoms begin soon after you start a gaming session, a problem with your vision might be the reason.

What You Can Do to Prevent Digital Eye Strain

Reducing your risk of digital eye strain can be as simple as:

  • Taking Breaks. The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends taking a 20-second break every 20 minutes when using screens. During breaks, look at an object about 20 feet in the distance.
  • Blinking More. Remind yourself to blink often to prevent dry eye.
  • Reducing Glare. Add a glare filter to your screen, reduce screen brightness, and position your screen away from windows or bright overhead lights.
  • Looking Down. The AOA suggests keeping your screen 4 to 5 inches below the level of your eyes. The organization also recommends 20 to 28" from the eyes as the ideal viewing distance for screens.
  • Wearing Computer Glasses. Your everyday eyeglasses may not be ideal for gaming. Luckily, prescription computer glasses provide sharp, clear vision at the recommended viewing distance.
  • Sitting. Children who preferred to lie down rather than sit while using digital screens were more likely to report digital eye strain symptoms in a study published in BMC Ophthalmology in 2019.
  • Trying Vision Therapy. If these recommendations don't help, pay a visit to your vision therapist. He or she can diagnose subtle vision problems that could be making digital eye strain worse. If you are diagnosed with a problem, vision therapy may be recommended. The therapy can help improve focusing, eye alignment, eye teaming, visual processing, visual memory and other essential vision tasks. A therapy session might involve playing a special video game, using a small bat to precisely strike a colored or numbered area on a ball, or playing a memory game.

Wondering if your eye strain symptoms could be related to vision problems? Give us a call to schedule your appointment with the vision therapist.

Sources:

The Vision Council: The Vision Council Shines Light on Protecting Sight – And Health – in a Multi-Screen Era, 1/7/2019

https://thevisioncouncil.org/blog/vision-council-shines-light-protecting-sight-and-health-multi-screen-era

American Optometric Association: Gaming and Digital Eyestrain, 7/15/2022

https://www.aoa.org/healthy-eyes/caring-for-your-eyes/gaming-and-digital-eye-strain?sso=y

PubMed: BMC Ophthalmology: Visual Implications of Digital Device Usage in School Children: A Cross-Sectional Study, 3/12/2019

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30866885/

American Optometric Association: Computer Vision Syndrome

https://www.aoa.org/healthy-eyes/eye-and-vision-conditions/computer-vision-syndrome?sso=y