February 3, 2012 12:20 PM   Subscribe

Please help me hack severe eye strain due to back-lit devices.

Over the last five years, I've experienced progressive eye-strain (focusing delays, pain, headaches, intolerance) when I work with back-lit devices (computers, any kind of monitor or display, phones). I worked with my eye doctor, and she wrote a prescription for glasses I wear when I do these kinds of tasks, and that has helped until recently. I do have a follow-up with her this month to discuss my options again (so please include details or questions that you know would be helpful to her in helping me).

I wear glasses for simple myopia all the time, and the lesser power glasses for the computer work. I make sure to adjust my views (when I can) to improve readability and the level of light until I am comfortable, and I look away frequently, but it is to the point that ten minutes is starting to be my outside limit.

I work in healthcare, so I have to deal with this all the time--all image studies (plain films, MRIs, ultrasounds, CATs) are presented on big back-lit monitors in dark radiology rooms. Most records for charting and reviewing are on computers. What has helped is that I can send most journal articles, reviews, and longer emails, etc. to my e-ink reader. But, it's really, really annoying to get pounding headaches from spending a morning looking for very discrete details on some kiddo's skeletal survey, or from normal charting. On some of these tasks, it's important I don't make errors.

I don't get this from exogenously lit materials--books, papers, e-ink. Or from doing small procedures like sutures. I use otoscopes and ophthalmoscopes and colposcopes and microscopes just fine, and regularly. I don't watch any TV (we've never had one)--I did regularly watch media on my computer, but I've recently found myself avoiding even 1/2 hour programs.

My doctor's ruled out major disorders of the eye as of our appointment 4ish months ago, and I'm a healthy 37-year-old lady otherwise. I'm wondering what to ask about in my appointment this month as well as other hacks, technological and otherwise, to deal with this.

And now I have to stop writing this, because--OW!
posted by rumposinc to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The biggest eyestrain problem I've seen is that backlit screens are way too bright by default. This is an even bigger problem in a dark room. People almost never turn their monitor brightness down. Most people don't even know that it can be done.

If you have physical access to the monitors, start turning them down when you use them. The monitor will generally keep the setting you give it. Unless you can't tolerate any light from monitors at all and are turning them down incredibly low, most people won't even notice. I've been doing this for years, on probably 100 monitors used by 100 different people, and no one has ever noticed.

The monitor I'm using right now is at 40% brightness and has direct sunlight on it. 50% is a high-end starting point for most monitors.
posted by cnc at 12:47 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: cnc is probably right. The monitor I'm looking at right now (in a relatively dim room) has it's brightness turned down to the minimum level, it's contrast reduced and I have f.lux installed to reduce the blue glare in the evening.

There are two things you can do to alleviate eyestrain caused by looking at a bright object in a dim room. You can turn the brightness of the object right down & you can increase the level of ambient light.

One thing that helps with the ambient light is to place a spotlight so that it illuminates the wall behind the monitor so that the wall is as bright or brighter than the screen is. That way, your pupils will be appropriately dilated according to the level of light across your visual field.
posted by pharm at 1:03 PM on February 3, 2012

Best answer: for a computer, i HIGHLY recommend the awesome program F.lux. Its free! And it automatically adjusts your computer with the lighting outside/season/etc. I don't have eye strain problems, but I honestly cannot look at a normal computer these days because my own is so much easier on my eyes. I only turn the program off when watching movies in full screen.
posted by fuzzysoft at 1:35 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: F.lux is good. Let me also recommend DimScreen. I was fortunate enough to find this (through another AskMeFi question) when I got a laptop that was burning my eyes out on the lowest setting.
posted by bryon at 7:41 AM on February 4, 2012

Response by poster: Ok!

I actually had been turning down the dimness of, at least, my primary laptop, but I believe I have now learned from playing with the F.lux that it wasn't really enough. I do try to make sure there is ambient light, but it helps a lot, like pharm mentioned, to direct light behind the monitor. There are only a few stations where I can do this in radiology with a small desk lamp, not all of them, but it does make a difference.

I am still having trouble figuring out how to reduce the brightness and contrast and still see well enough (this may be more of a problem with my regular old mypoia). But I feel like I have better questions I could ask my eye doctor.

All of these answers really helped, a lot! Thanks and carrots.
posted by rumposinc at 3:43 PM on February 6, 2012

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