It's important to avoid eyestrain from excessive computer use, but it's also important to recognise that those issues aren't particularly a product of using a computer screen. As optometry expert Harrison Weisinger reminds us, there's no compelling scientific evidence that looking at a screen directly harms our eyes.
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In a post at The Conversation, Weisinger, who heads optometry studies at Deakin University, explains that human eyes are designed to be better at looking long distances than looking at close-up objects, and that making those adjustments can cause strain:
We can look up close when the lens inside the eye “accommodates”. This requires contraction of muscles inside the eye. When we fixate on a nearby object (say, a screen), we also must turn our eyes inwards. This is called convergence. With hours on a screen, the muscles of accommodation and convergence can fatigue and give rise to the symptoms we know as eye strain. In my experience, this is one of the most common causes of headache in people who work on screens all day.
You need regular breaks in this scenario, and as you get older you'll quite probably need spectacles. But that would be equally true if you worked with paper documents all day. It's the repeated work close-up that's the issue, not the screen.
We've offered up lots of advice on how to prevent eyestrain when using computers and mobile gadgets. However, it's not an exclusive malady of the digital age. Eyesight deteriorates for the majority of us over time, and staring at anything for too long will cause strain.
Monday’s medical myth: reading from a screen harms your eyes [The Conversation]