Staring at the screen

Eye strain

Thomas Stine, a fourth-year student at Youngstown State University and a computer forensics major, spends a lot of quality time with his computer: about 11 hours each day.

“Yes, I assume it’s hurting my eyes, although a doctor hasn’t told me that,” he said. “My eyes are horrible.”

Stine, who has had issues with his sight since the fourth grade, can’t see a foot in front of him without his glasses. Plus, since he performs a lot of “near work” — or staring at the pulsing screen of a computer, smartphone or other device for long periods of time — he’s at risk for developing eyestrain.

Brandon Suverison, a fourth-year YSU student and a computer information systems major, spends more than 40 hours per week staring at computer screens. Suversion said he hasn’t experienced vision problems from his “near work,” but he does suffer from migraines, which are a common symptom of eyestrain.

Suverison and Stine are not alone.

“Screens, Phones, Tablets and More: Keeping Your Eyes Safe in a Digital Age,” a 2012 report sponsored by the Vision Council, found that “nearly 70 percent of U.S. adults experience some form of digital eyestrain while using their electronic devices.”

The average human blinks about 18 times per minute. After an extended period of time of staring at the backlight of digital screens, this number decreases by half, drying out the eyes and causing irritation. It was also proven that “near work” causes severe eyestrain on the eye muscles.

To reduce stress on their eyes, Stine and Suverison both own a pair of Gunnar Optiks glasses.

“[They] reduce eye strain, and they actually do help,” Stine said.Stine added that the Gunnar Optiks come in prescription lenses, but he has not yet invested in them. He said he is planning to.

“I recommend Gunnar or any other protective eyewear when staring at a computer screen for more than 20 hours a week,” Suverison said.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests that users sit at a safe distance of 25 inches, or more than 2 feet, from the computer screen. Users should also take frequent breaks and should use a screen filter or adjust the brightness of the screen to reduce eyestrain.