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Eyes Overworked? Put Down the iPad for '20-20-20' Vision

Brief breaks from computer screens fight eye strain, a doctor says.
Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News
Brief breaks from computer screens fight eye strain, a doctor says.

Most students would agree that cramming for finals is painful. 

But one overlooked stressor is eye strain, which can result in computer vision syndrome. A recent BBC article noted 90% of matriculating students in major Asian cities are suffering from nearsightedness.

According to Dr. Benjamin Warta, a VSP optometrist with Vision Care Specialists in Denver, Colorado, people that engage in daily or extended work, reading, or entertainment viewing on a screen near their face – “close work,” as Dr. Warta calls it – tend to show a definite increase in eye-strain.

This is because the eye “actually works harder to see up close,” Warta says. Eye strain over time causes the eye to stretch, which eventually causes nearsightedness, or myopia. “An elongated eye is a nearsighted eye,” according to Dr. Warta.

Symptoms of this condition usually go away after a break in computer use. But sometimes symptoms can persist if stress levels remain the same, or a user has particularly sensitive eyes or other ocular conditions. Dr. Warta remarks that although breaks usually alleviate pain or tension in the eye, breaks from computer use today are increasingly rare because computers are so common in the workplace. Students are in a similar position, as they cram in extra study time before tests.

Dr. Warta recommends a “20-20-20” rule, which advises people to take a 20 second break every 20 minutes. During this break, Dr. Warta recommends that people focus on something at least 20 feet away to give their eyes a rest from near-work. He also urges people suffering from eye strain to push their computers, books, or electronic device away from their face to rest the eyes.