Can Reading Books Actually Hurt Your Eyes?

“If you spend every day buried in a book, you’re going to hurt your eyes.”

Odds are we’ve all heard that statement at least once growing up. It’s a common sentiment to express worry over prolonged reading time potentially damaging eyesight. But like a lot of conventional wisdom, this isn’t actually true. The idea that you’ll do permanent harm to your eyes from reading, even for long periods of time or in low lighting, is nothing but a myth (and a persistent one, at that).

What perpetuates this myth?

Prescription eyeglasses are closely associated with education and reading in particular, but this does not mean that educated people or bookworms have damaged their eyes by reading. Part of this misconception comes from the fact that studious people may be more likely to take their eyesight seriously. This dynamic was especially more prominent in years gone by when wearing glasses outside of an academic setting was something done only in extreme cases. 

Also, as we age, up close vision decline is incredibly common, meaning that a middle-aged adult who loves to read is more likely to be caught with a pair of spectacles than one who doesn’t. It’s easy to see how people might try to turn this correlation into full-blown causality.

This myth especially makes the rounds with children. Many parents and even some teachers feel the need to limit not just screen time, but book time, as well for fear of damaging a child’s eyes. And while there are certainly some vision benefits from getting children outside and running around, don’t feel like you need to yank the book from their hands to save their eyesight.  

Is there any truth to this myth?

While it’s true that your eyesight won’t worsen from finishing that new novel, that doesn’t mean you can’t still “hurt” your eyes from reading too much or reading improperly.

Any task that requires intense focusing, such as reading or working on a computer screen can put you at risk of eye strain. Eye strain is not dangerous or permanent, but it can be uncomfortable and may lead to other symptoms, like headaches or fatigue. Eye strain may give you some red eyes, but it won’t make you any more dependent on prescription glasses than you already are.

There are ways to lessen eye strain and reduce the risk of developing it altogether. In fact, it’s a pretty easy fix, even for people in careers that require a lot of reading or up-close focusing. The most obvious solution is to just give your eyes a moment to reset every now and then. Every fifteen minutes or so, make a point to relax and let your eyes focus on something in the distance. Taking a few extra breaks, even extremely short ones, can also improve the situation tremendously.

If you’re worried about the potential long term effects of all that screen time at work, then consider investing in a pair of computer glasses. Lenses from 39DollarGlasses come with Blue495 Technology which completely guards against blue light from both computer screens and the sun.

Other than that, there are a few more tips for keeping your eyes feeling great no matter how much time you spend reading.

What’s the “proper” way to read?

You should always read with your eyeglasses (if you wear them). Forgoing reading glasses can lead to your eyes experiencing strain and fatigue more quickly since they are working harder to focus.

When reading or working on a computer, give yourself a quick break following something called the 20/20/20 Rule. This means taking a pause every 20 minutes to let your eyes focus on something about 20 feet away for approximately 20 seconds. Doing so will drastically reduce your eyestrain symptoms and likely increase your productivity, as well. But if you glance up at the clock and realize it’s been an hour since your last eye break, don’t panic. Your eyes will make a full recovery.

Digital versus paper

Many people concern themselves with their reading mediums. Should we opt for traditional books whenever possible or fully embrace the digital? Truthfully, there’s not much of a difference. Both printed media and digital displays (such as e-Readers and computer or tablet screens) have the potential to create eye strain. In the past, digitally displayed text was a much bigger offender of fatigue and eye strain due to the pixelated nature of the words, but as technology advances, this gap is narrowing.

Many people have personal preferences about reading from real pages or digital screens. Some people even have very strong feelings about exact color settings on tablets or the specific kind of paper used in a traditional book. Since there’s no clear medical advantage to any reading option, feel free to pick the setup that you feel most comfortable with and go with it!

Need a new pair of lenses?

Bookworm or not, everyone needs to see clearly. With the wide selection of customizable prescription eyeglasses from 39DollarGlasses, you can save money and time by ordering online.

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