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How to reduce eye strain from screens

Ten strategies and settings I use to reduce blue light and eye strain from screens on mainstream technology devices with low vision.

As a college student with low vision, I use a lot of different technology for long periods of time. My friends and professors joke that I have my favorite technology devices somehow permanently attached to me because I am always using them both inside and outside the classroom to help make things accessible for myself. While many people would think that I don’t get eye strain very easily since I use my technology so often, the reality is that I actually get eye strain much more than the average person, but I’ve configured my technology with several different apps and settings to help minimize it. Here are my favorite tips for how to reduce eye strain from screens that I’ve used over the years.

Blue light filter guard for Google Chrome

This extension helps to remove blue light, which can cause fatigue, eye strain, and blurry vision. It puts a warm tint over the page allowing the user to look at the screen for long periods of time. This has never affected my ability to see pictures, as images look very natural against this background.

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Computer glasses

When I was in high school, I took a lot of virtual classes during the school day, and during my senior year I only had one class that wasn’t in a computer lab. My ophthalmologist (who specializes in low vision) recommended that I start wearing computer glasses, which are tinted like my normal glasses and have a special progressive bifocal, as a way to help prevent me from bending my head at a weird angle when reading through my standard lined bifocal. I got mine through LensCrafters, and it took about seven business days to receive them. One downside to wearing computer glasses is that they are not usable when someone is not looking at a screen- when there was a fire alarm one day and I got up without changing glasses, I walked into the wall next to the door!

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Tinted glasses

One of my friends likes to use non-prescription tinted glasses when using technology. These are different from sunglasses, which would make screens difficult or impossible to see as the user moves their head. My friend’s pair of glasses have a yellow tint to them, which is known to help to reduce eye strain further. I have not tried wearing them over my own glasses so I’m not sure how they will fit, but I do like the wraparound design. However, my normal glasses already have a level 2 gray tint added so I don’t typically wear another pair of glasses on top of my own to use technology.

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Anti-glare screen filter

This is a glass filter that hangs on the outside of the computer monitor. This is not helpful for touch screens, however for desktop computers that don’t use touch, it’s a great way to further filter out light and glare, making text easy to see. My mom has this on our home computer and it really helps.

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Accessibility settings on Android and iOS

Reducing white point on iPad and iPhone

If you still find the screen to be too bright on the lowest brightness setting or just want to make colors less intense on the screen display, I recommend reducing the white point in settings, which can be done by doing the following:

  1. Go to the Settings menu
  2. Go to the Accessibility section. In iOS 13 and later, this is in its own special section underneath the “Homescreen and Dock” option, and in earlier versions it is a section within General settings
  3. Select Display Accommodations
  4. At the bottom of the menu, use the slider to reduce the white point. Mine is set to 50°

Color filter on iPad and Android

This helps to filter out blue light on iPad and iPhone. It can be enabled by doing the following:

  1. Go to the Settings menu
  2. Go to the Accessibility section. In iOS 13 and later, this is in its own special section underneath the “Homescreen and Dock” option, and in earlier versions it is a section within General settings
  3. Select Display Accommodations
  4. Go to the colors and filters section
  5. Choose the color tint option- mine is a dot that is 10% on the first slider for hue and 100% for intensity, which is a slight gray tint

Color filters can also be enabled by most Android phones by searching for color correction or screen tint within the settings menu.

System-wide Dark Mode

Starting in iOS 13 and Android 10, users can set dark mode to be used on their phone’s system, as well as the default experience for all apps. I prefer to have certain apps in light mode on my iPad so I don’t have system wide dark mode enabled there, but I do on my phone.

To enable system-wide dark mode in iOS:

  1. Go to settings
  2. Go to the “Display and Brightness” section
  3. Under Appearance, select dark or light

To enable system-wide dark mode in Android:

  1. Go to settings
  2. Go to the Accessibility section
  3. Under the Display section, turn on dark mode

Night Light/Night Shift

For users who prefer a soft amber or reddish light, the Night Shift feature in iOS and Night Light feature in Android will gradually get warmer in tone throughout the day or starting at night, which is believed to help users sleep better.

To enable Night Shift in iOS:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Go to the “Display and Brightness” section
  3. Underneath the brightness slider, open the Night Shift option
  4. Set a schedule for when to turn it on automatically, or manually enable it until tomorrow

To enable Night Light in Android:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Go to the Display section
  3. Under the Dark Theme option, select Night Light
  4. Set a schedule for when to have it turned on and modify the color intensity if needed

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This free application is available for iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, and even Linux. Simply tell it what area you live in and what lighting you have (such as indoor lighting or sunlight) and F.lux does the rest.

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High Contrast Mode in Windows 10

At my summer internship where I was a project manager at a major tech company, I used high contrast mode in Windows 10 all the time to help with eye strain. This simplifies the computer display and colors so that it is easier to read for people with low vision, and the darker color modes are great for people who get eye strain. For users who do not constantly need high contrast mode, it can be turned on/off with the keyboard shortcut alt-left shift-print screen.

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Eye pillow

When my eyes do get tired to the point that I can’t look at screens anymore, I like to rest an eye pillow on top of them. My favorite one is slightly weighted and provides weighted compression and total darkness, and has a different fabric on each side. I find that leaving this on for 20 minutes helps reset my eyes and make the eye strain go away.

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Microsoft Office backgrounds

My friend taught me this when I was in tenth grade. If you find the background behind the document you’re working on to be too bright, you can go into options and change the color of the background to dark gray/black. Another option is to change the color of the page background color in the Design tab so that it isn’t a sharp white- just make sure to change it back before printing, unless you want a shaded background.

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Enable automatic brightness

What is better for students with low vision, a super bright screen or a super dark screen? Well, that depends on the student and their eye condition, as everyone has different preferences. Personally, I prefer to use the automatic brightness settings across my devices to decide for me, though naturally I prefer slightly darker screens due to my photosensitivity. I can always adjust the automatic settings if I find the screen to be too bright or too dark for my needs, but that doesn’t happen too often.

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Summary of ten ways to reduce eyestrain with technology

By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes,

Updated July 2023; originally posted December 2016.

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