It's unlikely that watching too much television, reading too many books or staring at a computer screen will permanently damage your eyes. However, all of these activities can cause eyestrain, which isn't something you should ignore.
Eyestrain is when your eyes get overtired from too much use. You can get eyestrain from watching television in a dark room, excessive computer use or even driving. Reading in dim light can contribute to eyestrain as well. Any time you intensely focus your eyes on something for a long period, you're at risk for eyestrain.
Symptoms of eyestrain include:
- Sore, burning or itchy eyes
- Tired eyes
- Watery eyes
- Dry eyes
- Temporary blurred or double vision
- Light sensitivity
- Trouble focusing between paper and computer monitor
- "Afterimages" when you look away from the monitor
Eyestrain is a short-lived condition that you can treat yourself. For most people, the treatment simply is to rest your eyes. Take regular breaks from intense focus -- about five minutes each hour. Blink often to keep your eyes moist.
If your eyes are dry, try some over-the-counter artificial tears to re-moisten them. Also, ensure your glasses or contact lenses are appropriate and up-to-date for your needs. You can even buy some that are specially suited for computer work.
To prevent or minimize future eyestrain issues, you can make several changes to your work and home environments. Here are a few tips:
- Keep your monitor about an arm's length away.
- The top of your monitor should be about eye level or below. You should look slightly down in order to read the monitor.
- Take steps to reduce glare -- turn off bright overhead lights or close the blinds.
- Make sure your keyboard is directly in front of your monitor so your eyes don't have to work too hard.
- When knitting, sewing or performing other up-close work, ensure your light is bright enough and shines directly on your work.
- While reading in a chair, the light source should come from behind you and shine directly on the page.
- Keep the room lighted softly while watching television or DVDs. Too much contrast between the screen and the rest of the room can make your eyes work too hard.
For more on television and eyestrain, look at the links on the next page.