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How to Reduce Eye Strain While Gaming

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A man wears blue light glasses while playing video games on a computer at arm's length from his eyes to reduce eye strain

Healthy Eyes for Healthy Gaming

It’s all fun and games until someone feels eye strain. Whether you’re a casual gamer, completionist, or professional, protecting your eyes is essential to your gaming experience. Fortunately, you can improve your eye comfort in many simple ways, from blue light glasses to the 20-20-20 rule

Level up your eye care skills by discovering what causes eye strain and how to protect your eyes while gaming.

How Gaming Causes Eye Strain

Gaming is far from the only activity known for causing eye strain. Digital eye strain is common in those who spend a lot of time viewing digital screens, like computers, smartphones, TVs, and tablets.

Eye strain is also commonly caused by intensive or prolonged visual tasks, such as reading or long-distance driving. However, eye strain is more typical for close vision work, as those activities tend to keep your eyes focused in a fixed or limited position for long periods. 

Imagine you’ve decided to lift weights but only perform biceps curls. If you repeat the same exercise for hours, your biceps will feel exhausted. In some cases, overexerting yourself may even cause an injury. 

Intense visual work is similar: you repeat the same exercise or action with your eye muscles. While an injury is less likely with eye strain than with bicep curls, eye strain can lead to long-lasting eye issues, like dry eyes. Dry eyes come with their own risk, like eye infections and corneal scarring.

Eye Strain Symptoms

Symptoms of eye strain can include:

  • Blurry or double vision
  • Burning or itchy eyes
  • Dry eyes
  • Eye fatigue or discomfort
  • Eye twitching
  • Frequent squinting
  • Light sensitivity
  • Poor concentration
A couple sitting on a couch is playing video games away from the TV and taking screen breaks every 20 minutes to follow the 20-20-20 rule

Eye Tips for Gamers

Set your game time up for success by implementing these eye care tips.

20-20-20 Rule

The 20-20-20 rule is designed to help prevent screen time from overtaxing your vision. It takes at least 20 seconds for your eyes to relax, so focusing on an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds helps rest your eyes. It’s recommended you do this every 20 minutes.

These frequent breaks can be impractical whether you game for fun or views, but the most crucial takeaway here is to just take breaks. You may commit to looking away every time you complete a level or when your character fails. Or, on replays, try looking away during cutscenes or dialogue.

Drink More Water

The average human body is more than 50% water, so unsurprisingly, staying hydrated has multiple health benefits. 

Water is the main component of tears. Blinking spreads a thin layer of tears across your eye, cleaning away debris and providing much-needed moisture. Dehydration can impact your tear quality and cause dry eyes. Eye strain and dry eye disease often go hand-in-hand, sharing similar symptoms like eye irritation and fluctuating vision.

Staying hydrated can support tear production to help maintain healthy, moisturized eyes.

Remember to Blink

The average person blinks 12 times per minute but only 5 times per minute when viewing a digital screen. When you blink less, your eyes can dry out and tire more quickly. Remembering to blink more can be tricky when you’re focused on gameplay. 

You may find setting an alarm for stretch and water breaks helpful, but reminders to blink every minute may be irritating. So instead, try to force yourself to blink more when gaming, and add a few more blinks during your breaks. You can also try artificial tears to prevent dry eyes.

Stretch It Out

How long has it been since your last stretch break? When your head is in the game, hours can pass frozen in the same position.

Sitting for 4 or more hours—gaming or working—can lead to deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot formed in a deep vein (usually a leg). Any prolonged inactivity, even lying with your legs up in the same position, can increase your risk.

Neck, shoulder, and back pain are commonly associated with eye strain. Taking a stretch break is a chance to change the focusing position of your eyes and relieve body tension.

Try Blue Light Glasses

Blue light waves are short, high-energy light waves closest to UV light on the visible light spectrum. Fortunately, like UV radiation, our atmosphere protects us from the most powerful source of blue light—the sun. Blue light scatters in the atmosphere, making the sky look blue

Artificial sources of blue light, including digital screens, light bulbs, and LED technology, emit significantly weaker amounts of blue light, but we often use these sources of blue light for long periods and at close range. 

Some eye health experts have concerns that blue light may increase the risk of digital eye strain and macular degeneration. As blue light scatters more easily than other light wavelengths, it can be challenging for your eyes to focus. As a result, your eyes work harder and feel tired more quickly when exposed to blue light.

Currently, there is no clinical evidence that blue light causes harm to your eyes, but studies are limited, and we don’t know the long-term health effects of digital screens. The Canadian Association of Optometrists recommends limiting children’s exposure to blue light. They also recognize there may be accumulated eye damage from long-term exposure, resulting in adult eye problems.

Adding blue light filters or wearing blue light glasses can limit your exposure and possibly reduce your eye health risks. They can also help prevent late-night screen time from affecting your sleep.

Adjust Your Set Up

The position and distance of your screen relative to your eyes can negatively impact your eye comfort. While PC gamers can be more at risk, platform users should also be wary of sitting too close to their screens.

Your monitor should be about arm’s length from your eyes. The top third of your screen should be eye level, with the bottom no further than 30 degrees below eye level. Rest your upper back on your chair with shoulder blades pulled in and towards each other. Armrests should allow a 90-degree elbow position with arms close to your sides.

Get Outside

Like the 20-20-20 rule, getting outside helps change your visual focus. Indoor activities tend to be predominantly close tasks. Whether you’re a tabletop or digital gamer, your eyes need time to exercise long-distance visual skills. A 20-second break resets your focus in the moment, but you can enjoy more long-term relief by regularly giving your eyes more to look at.

Try adding outdoor activities or games with an emphasis on farther distances. It can be as simple as looking ahead while taking a walk. Sports and other outdoor hobbies can also offer a chance to stretch your visual skills, so you have a go-to break idea when you experience eye strain.

Discover More Eye Care Tips

Our team at River Heights Eye Care is committed to providing the best possible eye care to Cochrane families. Visit us when you have an eye problem or if it’s time for a routine eye exam. We take the time to get to know your and your vision needs.

Book an appointment today for personalized, compassionate care.

Written by Anthony Iuliano

Dr. Iuliano graduated with an honours degree in Biological Science from the University of Calgary with plans to work in the healthcare industry. In 2008, he attended the University of Waterloo Optometry program and graduated with honours in 2012.
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