Whether it is a computer, a laptop, a smartphone or another type of digital device, there is no getting around the fact that we are spending longer than ever before looking at screens. In fact, one study has found that the average American picks up their smartphone to check it or use it around 47 times a day – and that is just for social use. If you work in an office or have a job that required a computer or laptop as so many do, you probably spend at least 6 or 7 working hours each day staring at your screen before you even begin to factor in your digital device use at home.
While there is little doubt that screen-based technology can make our lives easier, it can also have a significant effect on the health and wellbeing of our eyes.
How Does Screen Time Affect Our Eyes?
Computer screens and digital devices can impact our vision in a few different ways. When these are combined together it can have a detrimental impact on our vision and our eye health.
Computer strain / digital strain
One of the main problems with excessive screen time is that is causes something known as computer strain. Also known as computer vision and digital strain, this problem occurs due to the intense need for your eyes to focus and refocus for the duration of the time that you are using the screen. Your eyes are reacting to changing images, focusing in on letters that aren’t formed as clearly as they are on paper, and dealing with glare and all of these require your eyes to work harder than usual. This is particularly true once we reach 40+ years of age as around this time the lenses in our eyes become less flexible and this makes it harder to focus on nearby objects such as digital screens.
Symptoms of computer strain include:
- Blurred or disturbed vision
- Neck or back pain
- Eye irritation
- Dry, red eyes
Another problem with excessive screen time is that is can cause a problem known as dry eye syndrome. This is because when we are focused on a screen, we blink much less often than is recommended. This causes our eyes to dry out and this can contribute towards eye strain and cause its own range of symptoms including itchy, scratchy and sore eyes and blurred vision. It may feel like you have something irritating your eyes or in some instances, you may find that your eyes are over-producing tear film which is your body’s reflex response to dry eye syndrome!
While there is currently no proof that screen use causes long-term damage to vision, there is no doubt that it can have a significant impact on your comfort and ability to function day to day.
What Can Be Done to Protect Eyes From the Effects of Excessive Screen Use?
We understand that while it is easy to tell someone to cut down on their screen time, the reality is that many people simply can’t or don’t want to. Fortunately, there are things that you can do to reduce the negative effects of spending too long looking at digital devices. These include:
- Blinking regularly
- Taking repeated breaks from the screen: apply the 20/20/20 rule… every 20 minutes spend 20 seconds focusing on something that is 20 feet away
- Making sure your screen is an appropriate distance from your face
- Choosing an ergonomic chair and necessary wrist supports
- Angling your screen to minimize glare
- Applying anti-glare coating to any prescription glasses
- Purchasing an anti-glare cover for your screen
- Switching to low wattage bulbs
- Drinking plenty of water so that you stay properly hydrated
- Having a humidifier in the office to prevent the air from becoming too dry
- Using artificial tears to help lubricate your eyes
If you are concerned that screen time might be having a negative effect on your eye health, please don’t hesitate to speak to our experienced team at Grove Eye Care in Richmond, VA or Midlothian, VA who will be happy to offer their advice and support (804) 353-3937.