Online reading causes dry eyes, blurred vision
Thanks to our obsession with screens, there’s now a diagnosis known as digital eyestrain. (Not to be confused with screen sightedness.)
People who spend hours staring at screens — and that’s your online audience, right? — suffer chemical changes in their tears similar to folks with dry eye, according to a study in JAMA Ophthalmology. Symptoms include irritation, burning and blurred vision.
Screen reading problems
Reading on the screen is hard for a simple reason: Our eyes weren’t made to stare at little beige boxes all day. When reading online, your readers face these special problems:
- Light. Reading online is like reading with a flashlight shining in your eyes.
- Blinking. People blink less often when reading online than when reading print. That’s a problem, because blinking is what keeps our eyes moist and relaxed. They also open their eyes wider when reading on the screen. That makes their tears evaporate faster and leads to dry eye.
- Scrolling. The human eye has a normal reflex called optokinetic nystagmus. That’s scientist talk for the way our eyes flit across the screen to follow scrolling type. That constant jumping up and down can wear your readers out and cause eyestrain.
Some 12 million Americans visit eye doctors each year because of computer-related problems, according to the American Optometric Association. That’s one out of every five people who come in for an eye exam.
“I’ve had people come to our clinic saying they were going to quit their jobs because they couldn’t take it,” David Grisham, optometry professor at the University of California, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Not exactly the purpose of your intranet, is it?
Don’t make your reader turn a blind eye to your message.
Overcome the obstacles of reading online
One of my goals in life is to never write anything that makes my readers throw up, resign or forget where they parked their car. But that’s actually possible when writing for the web.
Reading our messages on the screen can cause our readers:
- Tired, achy, stinging eyes
- Dry or watery eyes
- Blurred or double vision
- Neck, back and shoulder pain
- Difficulty thinking
Reading online hurts. No wonder people avoid it!