Like many attorneys, I spend at about 12 hours every day staring at a computer screen, smartphone and e-reader. I’ve been thinking about upgrading to a Kindle Fire, but I had some concerns about my eye health and I did a bit of research that yielded some surprising results.

One of the biggest selling points for companies that sell portable readers is that “e-ink creates less strain on the eyes.” But is this really true?

According to many doctors, computer eyestrain has less to do with backlight and more to do with the way you work on computers and e-readers. When you read something on a piece of paper or in a book, your eyes must move across and down the page from word to word, but when you use a computer, your phone or a tablet device, you often scroll words up to your viewpoint as your read, thus moving your eyes a lot less than you would if you were reading something on paper.  So, it’s not the backlight that hurts your eyes; it’s the fact that you aren’t moving your eyes. In the same way that your back starts to hurt after you have been sitting in one place for a long time, reading without moving your eyes can cause fatigue.

Not only do your eyes move less when you use these devices, most people forget to blink and take breaks while working in front of a screen. Blinking is a natural way to keep your eyes wet, so if you work in front of a screen, your eyes often dry up, causing blurry vision, irritation or inflammation.

So, if you are planning to buy an e-reader, your eye health doesn’t have to be at the heart of the decision between choosing e-ink or an LCD display. Instead, make your display choice according to your own aesthetic preferences and try these tips to help avoid eye fatigue when using any type of screen:

  • Take breaks, and follow the 20/20/20 rule: every 20 minutes, look away from your computer at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
  • Blink often to refresh and moisten your eyes.. Most people forget to blink when they are staring at a screen, so you might need to use a sticky note as a reminder until it becomes a habit.
  • Grab a bottle of artificial teardrops. Aim for lubricating drops without preservatives, and steer clear of eyedrops that contain a redness remover.
  • Readjust the computer screen in your law office so that your eyes look slightly down.
  • Close your eyes and gently massage your upper eyelid against your brow bone for about 10 seconds. Then, massage your lower eyelid against the lower bone for 10 seconds. According to the Mayo Clinic, this exercise can stimulate your tear glands to help prevent dry eyes, and it will help relax the muscles around your eye and reduce symptoms of eyestrain.

For more debunked eye health myths, check out this recent article by David Carnoy at RealAge.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eek/190164232/)