We’re constantly looking at our phones and other devices these days, which can lead to digital eye strain (DES) and symptoms like dry eye, headaches, and irritation. Thankfully, a simple, expert-approved exercise that just takes seconds can help protect your eye health and slow down signs of age-related vision loss!
Robert C. Layman, OD, President of the American Optometric Association, recommends the 20-20-20 rule. While looking at screens for an extended period, pause every 20 minutes to stare 20 feet away in the distance for 20 seconds. Remember to blink a bit as you’re doing this to avoid dry eye. This trick helps give your eyes a much needed break from the constant blue light exposure that can cause DES symptoms and vision damage.
Layman explained to Woman’s World why the 20-20-20 rule is so important, especially as we age: “Uncorrected vision problems like farsightedness and astigmatism, inadequate eye focusing or eye coordination abilities, and aging changes of the eyes, such as presbyopia, can all contribute to the development of visual symptoms when using a computer or digital screen device.”
He adds that the risk of DES and other vision related problems is greater for adults who spend two or more continuous hours looking at screens every day. Also, previous research estimates that at least 50 percent of computer users have some form of vision-related issues due to constantly looking at their screens.
“If nothing is done to address the cause of the problem, the symptoms will continue to recur and perhaps worsen with future digital screen use,” Dr. Layman says. So, adjusting your screen time habits may be something to consider.
In addition to the 20-20-20 rule, he recommends tweaks like taking frequent breaks to do a non-screen activity. While working, make sure your computer is positioned at eye-level with good contrast and adjusted brightness can lessen eye strain. Simply remembering to blink can make a huge difference as well. “As with all screens, our blink rate goes down which can also cause the eyes to become dry and irritated, so being intentional about blinking can be helpful,” he explains.
While these habits are important to incorporate into your everyday routine, Dr. Layman emphasizes the importance of scheduling a comprehensive in-person eye exam with an optometrist once a year to make sure your vision stays in tip-top shape. “Many eye and vision problems have no obvious signs or symptoms, so you might not know a problem exists,” he explains. “Fortunately, many sight-threatening diseases can be cured or slowed with early diagnosis and treatment.”
As you can see, taking a few seconds out of your day to maintain great eye health is totally easy and really pays off as time goes on! Take a look to hear Dr. Layman discuss this technique more on Good Morning America: