It’s been said that the average American worker spends seven hours a day on the computer, either in the office or working from home. It’s not unusual for physicians to spend even more time at the computer during their intensive board review.
Several factors may contribute to digital eye strain, such as screen glare, poor lighting, poor posture while using a computer, viewing a computer at the wrong distance and angle, not taking breaks while working, uncorrected vision problems, or combinations of these.
Using a computer for significant periods can cause many users to experience Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). Symptoms of CVS include visual changes (blurred/double vision), dry or red eyes, eye pain, neck aches, and headaches.
The good news is that there are simple steps you can take to alleviate digital eyestrain:
o FOLLOW THE 20-20-20 RULE … LOOK AWAY: Taking short breaks periodically can reduce eye fatigue. Follow the 20-20-20 Rule: Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break to view something 20 feet away. This can relax your eye muscles.
o DON’T FORGET TO BLINK: Studies show that close and concentrated work causes you to blink less frequently. Blinking is your eye’s natural way of resting and staying lubricated. Make a conscious effort to blink every 10 to 15 seconds to minimize the likelihood of developing dry eyes and keep your vision sharper.
o PROPERLY POSITION YOUR SCREEN: Your computer screen should be 20 to 26 inches from your eyes. It should be placed just below your line of sight, 10 to 15 degrees below your eyes. This helps to prevent awkward head/neck positioning.
o SCHEDULE SOME BREAKS: Remember, the body is meant to move—so stretch multiple times throughout the day. Be kind to yourself by scheduling breaks to help your mind and body reset. Listen to music, meditate, stretch, or take a short walk to refresh. Set a clock or use a Pomodoro timer to remind yourself to take a break. It would be best if you gave your eyes a break from screens for 15 minutes after every two hours of work.
o CONSIDER ERGONOMICS: Sitting up straight and pulling the belly button toward the lower spine so that the lower abdominal muscles engage is ideal. Practicing good posture takes effort and discipline, but it’s worth it. A straight and upright back nicely aligns the vertebrae in your back. Bad posture (slouching) can harm your physical body (reduced blood flow) and your mental health (depression and anxiety).
o ASSESS AMOUNT OF LIGHT: Too little or too much light coming through windows or bright room light is not ideal. Control natural light by using blinds or shades. Turn off overhead fluorescent lights to create a more desirable ambiance. Position your computer so windows are to the side of it.
Pay attention to your eyes by following these simple steps to care for your eyes during your intensive board preparation.
Linda L. Carr, Ph.D., Founder/Principal at Coaching for Medical Specialty Boards, is a medical educator and learning specialist who coaches physicians preparing for specialty boards through virtual, one-on-one coaching. Visit www.DrLindaCarr.org to learn more about her program and download her FREE Study Guide.