Five tips to prevent iPad eye strain

Here are five tips to help maintain your eye health while using the iPad.

The iPad is coming soon. The rumor that pre-orders would begin this past Thursday failed to materialize, and there are still a number of question marks--most notably "when will the FCC approve the iPad for sale in the United States?" But, one way or another, the iPad will arrive sooner or later.

If you believe Apple's hype about the "magic" of the device, soon millions of Americans will rely on the Apple iPad for all manner of media consumption--movies, books, TV shows, newspapers, etc. That means millions of Americans will spend even more time with their faces basked in the pale glow of a backlit screen, possibly doing damage to their vision.

According to Dr. Jeffrey Anshel, a noted optometrist and author of the upcoming book Smart Medicine for Your Eyes , is concerned that in today's world we spend more and more time staring at electronic screens. The problem is not unique to the iPad, but includes other devices like the iPhone, BlackBerry, and Kindle , or the armies of Xbox gamers spending hours (days?) in front of a screen playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that young Americans are spending almost every waking hour absorbed in some form of entertainment media: mobile phones, MP3 players, handheld gaming units, and soon the iPad as well.

The problem is not unique to America's youth, though. Business professionals may not be as invested in XBox games or MP3's (OK-maybe some are), but they do spend an increasingly greater amount of time staring into a desktop monitor, notebooks, netbooks, and smartphones.

All of that time engrossed in backlit liquid crystal displays of some type or another can put a tremendous strain on your vision, and have lasting consequences for your long-term eye health. Thankfully, you don't have to live a Luddite existence and simply abandon technology.

Here are five tips from Dr. Anshel to help you maintain your vision health and avoid "digital eye":

1. 3 B's: Blink, Breathe, and Break. When looking at a computer or handheld digital device you blink two to three times less than you normally would. This can often lead to "dry eye". That may seem like something inconsequential, but in reality--for power digital users--can lead to permanent vision damage.

2. The 20/20/20 Rule. While working on the computer, reading your iPad, Kindle, etc., every 20 minutes look 20 feet away for 20 seconds to allow your eyes to refocus.

3. Consult your Doctor. Let your eye doctor know if you are a "power user" of handheld devices. Your eye doctor may provide you with a separate lens prescription for digital devices, to lower eye strain and avoid permanent damage. One pair of glasses or one prescription may not fit all.

4. Get an annual eye exam. The only way to gauge the impact of using an iPad, iPod or other handheld device is to get a year-over-year look at your eye health.

5. Monitor Lighting. Make sure you are in a well lit room, or outside. Eye strain is often a function of lighting. Glare, and low light can really hurt your eyes, and when you are looking at a digital device the back-lighting of the device combined with the room's lighting could be very detrimental.

So, fear not. Pitch your tent outside of the Apple store and camp so you can be first in line for the iPad. Live it. Breathe it. Just make sure you look up every once in a while and follow these tips to make sure you don't hurt your eyes in the process.

Tony Bradley is co-author of Unified Communications for Dummies . He tweets as @Tony_BradleyPCW , and can be contacted at his Facebook page .

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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