Whether you’re watching your kid rack up wins in Fortnite or spending another long night trekking through Skyrim, you might begin to wonder if all this time staring at screens is bad for your eyes.
While generally, playing video games won’t lead to permanent eye damage, prolonged time spent playing video games can result in eye strain or dry eyes. This fatigue is a common condition called digital eye strain. Since many of us spend hours in front of computer screens, you’ve likely experienced something like it already.
Fortunately, your optometrist can help with solutions. Still, the better you understand how computer screens affect your eyes, the better you can protect your vision.
What is Digital Eye Strain?
Digital eye strain, sometimes called computer vision syndrome, can happen after viewing a digital screen for too long. This viewing can include looking at your phone, working on your computer, or, yes, playing video games.
Viewing digital screens generally make the eyes work harder. This is because the letters or images in devices are often less sharply defined than they are on paper and include glare and reflections that can make viewing difficult. People also tend to blink less when playing games or during other screen use, which can cause eye irritation.
Some common symptoms of digital eye strain include:
- Blurred Vision
- Dry Eyes
- Neck and shoulder pain
People with uncorrected vision problems, such as nearsightedness, might be more susceptible to these symptoms. They can also be exacerbated by playing games in a dimly lit room, sitting too close to the screen, or having poor posture while gaming.
If you have digital eye strain, your optometrist can diagnose it through a comprehensive eye exam. This type of eye condition can affect both adults and children, so it’s essential to keep an eye out for any of these symptoms.
Protecting Your Eyes From Screens
Fortunately, many of the symptoms of digital eye strain are temporary. They will fade after you stop using a digital device. However, if you don’t address the condition’s underlying cause, it can keep happening and possibly worsen. In addition, digital eye strain can be annoying and tiring, so if you want to keep gaming, you should take steps to protect your eyes.
The 20/20/20 rule is a way to let your eyes rest and avoid digital eye strain. It’s simply this: every 20 minutes you spend staring at a screen, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Why 20 seconds? It takes about 20 seconds for your eyes to relax. The 20-foot rule also doesn’t need to be exact. Simply focus on something far away from you. This object could be across the room or outside, but if you’re in a small area, it’s an excellent excuse to take a quick break between matches.
Ensure Proper Posture and Screen Position
It can be easy to sink into your chair while playing games for a long time. Still, proper posture can not only protect your eyes, but can also save you from soreness in your neck and shoulders. This is especially true for anyone who plays PC games, and you’ll likely be sitting in a computer chair.
Your chair should be padded and conform to the body. Make sure your feet can rest flat on the floor, and your chair arms will support your wrists while you’re typing. Your monitor should optimally be 4–5 inches below eye level (many people find it more comfortable to look downward at a screen), and it should sit about 20–28 inches away from your eyes.
Take Stretch Breaks
Sometimes you get really involved in a game and can begin to tense up. You may not even notice you’re doing it until you feel tight in your muscles and your eyes start to unfocus. It’s important to pause if you can and take a step back.
Stretching is an excellent way to ensure you’re focusing on something other than a screen.
Blink Often to Hydrate Your Eyes
It may sound silly, but it’s easy to forget to blink. Video games have a lot of moving images, and you’re usually focusing intently, which leads to you blinking less.
Blinking is an important function in producing the necessary lubrication that keeps your eyes fresh. If you don’t blink enough, it can cause your eyes not to get the nutrients it needs and eventually dry out. Therefore, ensure you’re frequently blinking so you can prevent eye strain.
Keep Gaming While Keeping Your Vision Safe
Playing video games can have positive effects; it can help with cognitive skills and spatial reasoning, but as with any activity that involves staring at screens for long periods, it has risks. Digital eye strain is a common part of life and everyone has likely experienced it at some level.
A few simple changes are usually all you’ll need to prevent this aggravating condition. However, if your symptoms aren’t going away, book an appointment with our expert team at Pack & Bianes Vision Care.