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Computers, Electronic Readers and Eye Strain

I’ve joined the world of e-readers—we got an iPad mini for Christmas! So far I’ve only read a couple of children’s books on it and a magazine. It will take time for me to get used to turning pages with the swipe of a finger.

On the news the other day was a segment about e-readers versus printed books and eye strain. It’s sometimes referred to as computer vision syndrome. They said that reading a book in print, the old-fashioned way, is easier on your eyes. For those of us with vision problems, that’s meaningful. I decided to do some checking on line.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, “Eyestrain occurs when your eyes get tired from intense use, such as…reading or working at a computer. Although eyestrain can be annoying, it usually isn't serious and goes away once you rest your eyes.” If your symptoms persist after rest, then you probably want to see your eye doctor.

Do e-readers really cause eye strain? From what I’ve read, it depends on many factors. An article in the New York Times on line says, “It depends on the viewing circumstances, including the software and typography on the screen,” among other things. And that also included the ink on the paper of a traditional book!

Here are some tips for reducing eyestrain while using an e-reader or working at a computer:

Blink more often—
Many people blink less than normal when working at a computer, which can lead to dry eyes. Blinking produces tears, which moistens your eyes and prevents dryness and irritation.

Exercise your eyes—
Another cause of computer eye strain is ‘focusing fatigue.’ Follow the "20-20-20” rule. Look away from your computer at least every 20 minutes and gaze at an object that’s at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Looking far away relaxes the focusing muscle inside the eye and reduces fatigue.

Use proper lighting—
Be sure that your light is directed on what you're doing. Use a brighter light source if you need one. You can also try turning down the backlight on your e-reader. Make sure that your entire room is well-lighted to reduce shadows, but not brighter than your work area so as not to create a glare.

Minimize glare on your screen—
The glare from other sources of light makes it difficult to view the screen and causes eye strain when you try to see past the glare. Position your computer so that neither you nor the monitor faces a window, or close the blinds to reduce glare. LCD screens are easier on the eyes and usually have an anti-reflective surface.

Adjust your display settings—
Consider brightness, text size and contrast. Try pressing 'control +' to make print larger, and 'control-' to make it smaller again. For more information on this, go to the All About Vision website.

Take breaks—
If you sit at a computer or are using your e-reader for a long time, take mini-breaks. Focus on something else for five minutes or so. Give your neck and back muscles a stretch while you’re at it.

Modify your work area—
Tilt your monitor so that the top of the monitor is slightly farther from the eyes than the bottom of the monitor. If you’re typing from a written page, place your pages on a stand next to the monitor. Make sure the pages are well lighted.

Maintain good posture—
Poor posture not only adds to neck and back strain, it also contributes to computer eye strain. If you are at a desktop computer, adjust your chair to the correct height so that your viewing area is just below eye level. It’s best if your computer screen is at least 25 inches from your eyes.

More tips for those with vision problems:

--Use a larger print size.
--Use bold type.
--Avoid decorative fonts, italics or all capital letters.
--Use 1.5 or double spacing when reading something online.
--Use black rather than colored lettering.
--Try reading with lighter lettering against a darker background.
--Use a font with more space between the letters, such as courier.
--Make sure your eyeglasses are clean and free of scratches. You might consider a separate pair of glasses for use on the computer or e-reader.

Read more on the following websites:

Read Simple.com
American Foundation for the Blind

In the meantime, I’m enjoying my new electronic reader. It’s quick and easy to get connected online. It’s easy to hold and read on when I’m eating lunch, or in bed at night. I like that you can make the text larger, and change the appearance of the page. It’s less to carry when I’m away from home. And I found a Sudoku app that’s more user-friendly than pen and pencil and eraser! As I get more used to it, I’ll enjoy testing out reading books on it, too!

Happy Reading, everyone!  Read More 
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