Reading is an essential activity that helps us gain knowledge and stay informed about the world around us. However, some people believe that reading too much can be bad for the eyes. In this article, we will explore the truth behind this claim and provide you with insights to help you understand how reading affects your eye health.
What is eye strain?
Reading involves the use of your eyes, and it is not uncommon for your eyes to feel tired or strained after a long reading session. Eye strain, also known as asthenopia, is a common condition that occurs when your eyes become fatigued from prolonged use, such as reading or staring at a computer screen for an extended period. Symptoms of eye strain include:
- Blurred vision
- Dry eyes
What causes eye strain?
Eye strain is often caused by a combination of factors, including:
- Reading in low light settings
- Glare from electronic screens
- Unmanaged vision problems like farsightedness or astigmatism
- Spending too much time staring at computer screens
Is eye strain a serious condition?
Eye strain is not a serious condition, but it can be an indication of an underlying issue like presbyopia or need for prescription glasses. In most cases, eye strain can be reduced or avoided completely by taking breaks during reading sessions, adjusting your eye’s resting position, or using eye drops to relieve dry eye.
Does reading in dim light hurt your eyes?
One common myth about reading is that it is harmful to the eyes when done in dim light, particularly when reading in bed with a dimmer light. Reading in dim light won’t cause any long-term damage to your eyes, but it can cause eye strain, headaches and blurred vision. A well-lit room or reading lamp can help reduce eye strain, regardless of the time of day you read.
Does reading on electronic devices affect eyesight?
Electronic devices emit blue light, which can disrupt the body’s melatonin production and affect sleep quality. In addition, staring at a screen for an extended period can cause digital eye strain, headaches and dry eyes. Some ways of reducing the impact of screens on eyes include:
- Reducing screen brightness
- Using a blue light filter
- Using an adjustable stand that allows screens to be angled to reduce glare
- Positioning the screen arm’s length away from the face
- Frequent breaks from the screen or practicing the 20-20-20 Rule
Is there a danger of long-term damage to the eyes with excessive reading?
Excessive reading doesn’t cause any long-term damage to the eyes, and there’s no evidence that it can cause permanent vision loss. However, if you already have an underlying vision problem like astigmatism, excessive reading can cause headaches and eye strain. Regular eye exams can detect and correct these problems, reducing the impact of excessive reading.
Can reading books help improve eyesight?
Reading books doesn’t directly improve eyesight, but it can help protect your eyes from age-related degeneration. Studies have shown that reading reduces the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration and other vision problems.
What is the best way to read without straining your eyes?
Reading without straining your eyes is possible by taking the necessary precautions, like:
- Maintain a distance of between 14 and 16 inches between your eyes and the book or screen
- Ensure proper lighting, especially when reading at night
- Use an adjustable stand for computer screens to reduce glare or eyestrain
- Follow the 20-20-20 rule by taking a 20-second break to look at an object 20 feet away every 20 minutes
- Wear proper prescription eyewear if you have an underlying vision problem
How can blue light filters help reduce eye strain?
Blue light filters used in electronic devices help reduce eye strain by blocking the blue light rays that can cause eye fatigue and affect sleep patterns. They work by reducing the intensity of the blue light, making it more comfortable on your eyes, without altering the color balance of your screen. This can help alleviate eye strain and fatigue while using electronic devices.
The bottom line
Reading is not bad for your eyes, but it can cause eye strain, fatigue, and headaches in some circumstances. To avoid these problems, take regular breaks during reading sessions, maintain proper lighting, use proper prescription eyewear, and adjust your screen settings to reduce glare and eye strain.
Unanswered Questions About Reading and Eye Health
- Can reading small print cause eye strain?
- Is it possible for reading to cause permanent vision loss?
- Can proper lighting help reduce eye strain?
- Should people with good eyesight worry about eye strain?
- Luchner, A. (2021). Reading in Dim Light: Does It Really Damage Your Eyes? [Blog article]. Retrieved from https://www.allaboutvision.com/en-ca/eye-care/reading-in-dim-light/
- Mosby’s Medical Dictionary, 9th edition. (2012). Asthenopia [Dictionary entry]. Retrieved from https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/asthenopia
- NIH National Eye Institute. (2019). Your Eyes Are Working Together When You Read [Blog article]. Retrieved from https://nei.nih.gov/healthyeyes/eyehealthtips/reading
- Prevent Blindness. (2019). Digital Eye Strain [Blog article]. Retrieved from https://www.preventblindness.org/digital-eye-strain-0