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5 tips to prevent eye strain while reading

While eye strain from reading doesn’t usually cause long-term eye damage or vision loss, it is one of the most common causes of headaches. Eye strain also causes tired, irritated eyes and a general sense of fatigue. In an era when many people read on illuminated screens, preventing eye strain is even more critical.

The most common symptoms of eye strain include:

  • Feeling tired even when rested
  • Achy eyes
  • Eyes that water more than usual, minus the redness or scratchy irritation common with infections or when a foreign object is in the eye
  • Getting headaches (they may even feel concentrated right behind the eyes)
  • An urge to continually rub your eyes
  • Having to blink repeatedly to bring things into focus (especially when switching from close-range to distance vision and vice versa)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Light sensitivity
  • The feeling you can’t keep your eyes open

5 Tips For Preventing Eye Strain And Reading-Related Headaches

The following tips can prevent eye strain and any associated side effects.

Schedule annual eye exams 

The first step in preventing eye strain is ensuring you have glasses if needed, and verifying existing prescriptions for current glasses or contacts are still valid. Time flies, and your eyes, optic nerve, and brain may be scrambling to compensate for vision changes causing eye strain while reading. 

Scheduling routine annual eye exams is the best way to make sure your eyes aren’t working too hard to focus when reading things that are close up (books/magazines/eReaders), medium distance (computer screens), and further distances (television, traffic signs, classroom whiteboards, etc.). These appointments are especially important for younger children who may not realize they have vision issues without routine exams.

Take screen breaks every 20 minutes

These days, much of our reading takes place on illuminated screens rather than pages. The American Optometric Association has defined a new range of eye problems, called computer vision syndrome, due to the rising number of eye and vision problems we see in our offices. Also called digital eye strain, the syndrome relates to several conditions linked to too much screen time with insufficient breaks. 

These include:

  • Dry eyes
  • Eye strain
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Blurred vision
  • Neck and shoulder pain

In our post, Eye Strain Caused By Too Much Screen Time, we discuss how to minimize or prevent the risk of digital eye strain, including the 20-20-20 rule; take a 20-second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes. Set a time on your watch or gadget when working online or using a screen to keep track. Other tips include keeping preservative-free eye drops on hand to refresh the eyes, keeping screens at arm’s length away, and using glare-reducing tools.

If you let your children play games or watch shows/movies on gadgets, explain the rule and set a timer for their eye breaks, too. We have no long-term data about the risk of screen use and childhood eye/vision/brain development, so it’s always best to err on the side of caution.

Adjust for adequate lighting

Reading without adequate lighting also causes eye strain. If you’re reading on an illuminated device, the lighting in the room should always be brighter than the screen to prevent glare-related strain. Adjust lighting accordingly and dim the screen to a comfortable level to reduce glare.

If you’re reading text materials, think about task lighting. Usually, the overhead lighting from a lamp is not enough. Instead, position task lighting for reading so light is directly illuminating the pages. The light should be behind you whenever possible to prevent shining in your eyes. You should have the lighting set such that your face, eyes, and brows can remain completely relaxed while reading. If you notice any squinting or furrowing of the brow, keep working to adust lighting. This could also be a sign of eye strain requiring an eye exam.

Take frequent breaks

On screens, as noted above, we recommend the 20-20-20 rule. However, book and magazine readers should take frequent vision breaks, too. Remember to look up occasionally and look at something further away for a while. If you have a window nearby, take a look at the outdoor world. This helps to relax the eye muscles for a bit. We tend to blink less frequently when reading, which leads to uncomfortable dry eye syndrome.

Get plenty of rest (and make healthy lifestyle choices)

The more tired you are, the greater your eye strain will be. Tired eyes are already compromised, meaning reading time or screen time causes more strain than we notice. The eyes are one important anatomical part of the whole living body. They rely on your healthy lifestyle choices for their well-being. That’s why healthy sleep habits support healthy eyes and vision, not to mention your overall physical and emotional wellbeing.

Eating nourishing foods, including those high in Omega 3s, vitamins A and E, and eating lots of leafy greens also benefit your eye. Finally, making sure you’re hydrated can help reduce the risk of dry eye.

Are Your Eyes Feeling Tired These Days?

Have you noticed your eyes are feeling more tired these days? Have you noticed eye strain while reading, using screens, or watching TV? Let’s get to the bottom of it and provide the relief your eyes are asking for. Schedule an appointment at Atlantic Eye Insitute, or give us a call at (904) 241-7865.

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