The 20-20-20 Rule that Might Save Your Eyesight

This handy trick gives eyes the break they need.

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It might seem like no biggie to park yourself at your desk and plow through four hours of spreadsheet analysis without a break, but optometrists seriously want you to reconsider.

Eye doctors have witnessed a surge of eyestrain-related visits in the past couple of decades; they’ve coined the new condition “Computer Vision Syndrome” (CVS). That’s when your eyes spend too much interrupted time staring into laptops, tablets, smartphones, or whatever digital contraption will be added to the market tomorrow.

You may be familiar with the symptoms of CVS without even realizing it: eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and neck and shoulder pain, according to the American Optometric Association.

Why are digital devices such a drag on the eyes? Text on a laptop screen is not as sharp and defined as text on paper. Add in a little glare and reflection from the window, and you’ve got a recipe for eyestrain.

Even if you can’t squeeze in a full break at your job, you can still protect your vision by implementing what some experts call the 20-20-20 rule. Here’s how you do it: Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and view something 20 feet away from you. This helps reset your eyes and gives ‘em a well-deserved break from screen time.

And don’t underestimate the role of lighting. “It can be helpful to try brightening the lighting around you or increasing the contrast on your computer screen,” says Dena Nader, MD, regional medical director for MedExpress Urgent Care.

Positioning your computer properly will reduce eyestrain as well. Here’s how to set up your desk for less eyestrain and better posture.