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Eyestrain can occur for a number of reasons. Extended work on a computer, driving for long distances, and reading can all cause symptoms.

What is Asthenopia?  (Eyestrain) How can it be prevented or treated? Is it best to read from a particular eReader or are traditional books better for eyestrain sufferers?

Recognizing Eyestrain

Eyestrain may cause the following symptoms: sore, tired eyes; burning; itching; watery or dry eyes; blurred vision; sensitivity to light. People who work on a computer may notice that it is difficult to focus on paper documents after reading from the computer monitor.

Doctors have confirmed that eReaders are not necessarily bad for eyes

Driving and computer use are often things that are necessities, but can changing our reading habits reduce the risk and severity of eyestrain? Doctors have confirmed that eReaders are not necessarily bad for eyes.

But some may be superior to others in terms of eye health in the ways they offer content, but this is also the case with print quality shifts between paperback and hardcover books.

What about Ereaders?

Eye StrainMany eReaders boast E Ink technology. E Ink is technology that produces a grayscale electronic display. The resulting display is viewable in multiple lighting levels and angles and is said to give a “book-like” page view.

Because there is no backlight, E Ink supposedly lessons the risks of eyestrain – at least that is what they claim. The downside is that an outside light source is necessary and low-lighting conditions actually increase the chance of straining.

Liquid Crystal Displays

LCD screens, such as those used in the iPad or iPod products, have their own issues. The screens, in bright sun, become reflective and are not conducive to comfortable reading; however in low lighting conditions the backlit screen is easy to view.

It is also worth mentioning that reading eBooks on a computer monitor is complicated by the posture required. Readers must adjust their bodies and not the book they are reading and in addition to eye strain, neck and back pain may occur.

Print Quality

Traditional print items vary in quality of the print. For example, compare the print in a newspaper to the print in a hardcover book. The fuzzier text, resulting from inferior paper and print, can cause the eyes to ache as well.

The same can be said for some paperback books of lower quality. So… is one type of reading superior to another when it comes to eyestrain? What can be done to prevent it? What can be done to treat it?

LCD vs. eReader vs. Print

Up to this point, I have outlined the reasons and symptoms of eyestrain as well as the issues with LCD, E Ink, and traditional print texts. Now I will present the results of my research on what format is easiest on the eyes and tips for treating and preventing eyestrain.

Kindle maintain that the absence of backlighting lessens eyestrain

Interestingly, there are conflicting reports about the effects of eReaders on the eyes. While proponents of E Ink devices like Amazon’s Kindle maintain that the absence of backlighting lessens eyestrain, there is no scientific evidence or study data to back up the claim.

Many Kindle users report that the device seems to be close to reading a traditional paper book and that eye strain is not an issue. Bright light makes E Ink devices easier to read and dim light enhances the use of LCD devices such as the iPad. So what does this mean?

Many Doctors and Ophthalmologists Agree about Backlighting

Comments from doctors and ophthalmologists in various articles online show that backlighting really isn’t an issue. Any reading – whether E Ink, LCD, or traditional print – can cause eyestrain because you are doing one thing for a long period. There you have it. It makes no difference what format you choose to read.

Any of them can cause eyestrain. Now, does this mean that they are all equal? No. Everyone has a preference, and you should choose the one that seems most comfortable to you.

Allow your eyes to wander and relax

Some Simple Remedies

Eye Strain RemediesLet’s imagine for a moment that you, engrossed in the latest bestseller from Amazon, have lost track of time and have some nasty eyestrain. What do you do? First of all, tear yourself away from the book.

Allow your eyes to wander and relax. If, after a few minutes, your eyes do not feel better, try placing a cold wash cloth or cold teabags on your closed eyelids. These simple remedies should help relax and soothe the eye muscles.


How about prevention? The best way to deal with eyestrain is to avoid it! If you have been told to wear glasses when you read, make sure you use them! Many cases of eye pain are due to not using prescription glasses when needed. Ensure that you have proper lighting – especially with the E Ink Reader or traditional print book.

Take breaks every twenty minutes, focus on something in the distance – away from your reading – for twenty or thirty seconds. Make sure your eyes are lubricated by blinking often.

Oh, and if you REALLY want to avoid eyestrain completely: Listen to audio books!

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