In today’s hi-tech world, using a computer and mobile phone is a necessity. With the global reach of business and private enterprise, the need for constant connectivity has made much of our lives more convenient and efficient. However, it has also caused some serious concerns among parents, educators, sociologists, and members of the medical community.
The average American child has up to 4 hours of screen time every day. For adults, it’s almost triple that number. According to Nielsen, American adults spend up to 11 hours each day on various types of interactive media. This heavy amount of screen time is, not surprisingly, resulting in significant health issues, especially on the eyes. The most common condition is Digital Eye Strain, also referred to as Computer Vision Syndrome.
What Is Digital Eye Strain?
Digital Eye Strain (DES), also called Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), is a condition that occurs when the eye is forced to focus on a digital device, such as a TV, desktop computer, laptop, or smartphone, for a lengthy amount of time. A whopping 70% of US adults suffer from the condition, and people aged 18-34 have reported stronger feelings of eyestrain than those in older age groups.
The longer a person stares at a screen, the less they blink their eyes, and this can cause discomfort or vision problems. Blinking is healthy because it naturally moisturizes the eyes and gets rid of tiny particles that may enter the eye. Less blinking causes dryness, itching, redness. Some may experience mild swelling or pain, although it varies among each person.
DES can also negatively affect sleep patterns and cause upper body pain. When our brains are constantly ‘on’ as we consume content and remain alert for long periods of time, it becomes harder for the body to slow down and rest. A body needs movement and exercise (in addition to sleep and nutrition, of course) in order to stay healthy and in good shape. Sitting on a chair or couch for hours on end often results in stiff shoulders, neck pain, and upper back strain.
Many eyecare practitioners believe that DES can contribute to the development of cataracts and age-related Macular Degeneration, so paying attention to the signs is becoming increasingly important.
Excessive screen time causes a number of DES symptoms, including:
- Blurry or double vision
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Dry or watery eyes
- Neck, shoulder, or back pain
- Red eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Sore eyes
What Is Blue Light and Is It Dangerous?
There’s just something beautiful, even mesmerizing, about brightly colored lights. Our eyes are naturally drawn to bright lights from shops, Christmas trees, and decorative fixtures. However, while most lights used in home décor or in holiday decorations aren’t harmful, the blue light from digital devices is a different kind of light, and it can be dangerous for your eyes.
Scientifically-speaking, there is a certain range of light that can be seen by the human eye. This is known as the visibility spectrum. Of all the colors of light on the visibility spectrum, blue light has the highest amount of energy and is known to be a primary cause of Computer Vision Syndrome.
Most colors of light on the visibility spectrum emit a constant flow of light. Blue light does not. Its light is less constant, leading to flickering and short disruptions, which forces the eyes to work harder, leading to eye strain and headaches.
Natural blue light is in the atmosphere, and in steady doses, can be good for our overall health. It has been shown to improve memory, moods, and alertness. However, too much isn’t good, either. Excessive exposure to blue light can cause the opposite, such as forgetfulness, depression, and disruption of sleep, and in severe cases, retinal damage. Studies show that less exposure to blue light can drastically improve these symptoms.
Kids and Computer Use
Today, our children are growing up with technology, even from infancy. A multitude of apps and interactive computer games are used by millions of children, and the majority of school-age kids have their own smartphones. The amount of hi-tech media products for kids is constantly growing, so it’s more important than ever to help protect children’s eyes.
Computer Glasses and Blue Light Protection
So how can you protect your eyes from Computer Vision Syndrome while continuing your computer use without too much interruption? The answer is protective eyewear.
Special computer glasses can shield your eyes from harmful blue light and ease the strain on your eyes. They include a blue light filter, so while you use a digital device, they block harmful blue light from entering your eye. This, in turn, ensures that your eyes don’t have to work as hard to focus and can improve your sleep patterns.
Single Vision Computer Glasses are ideal for working on a computer that is at a fixed distance, so it does not move closer or further away. These glasses also work well when viewing several screens at the same distance.
Office or Progressive Lenses are multifocal lenses that correct near or distance vision and can be customized to include computer vision. They have a wider field of vision to help you see more around you without straining your eyes.
Computer glasses for pediatric patients in Lancaster County are available to help prevent Computer Vision Syndrome from developing to begin with. DES can cause problems with learning in school, as well, so be proactive – don’t wait until eye strain starts developing.
Step #1: Schedule an Eye Exam
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, then it’s time to speak with your eye doctor. Make an appointment with Dr. Collins for a comprehensive eye exam. The doctor will check your eyes and general vision, while asking you about your daily activities and computer use. Based on your individual needs, the doctor will create a custom course of action for you.
Not only is it a good idea to have your eyes examined regularly, but the doctor may discover other vision issues that may increase the frequency of your symptoms. This can occur without the patient even being aware of it, so book an appointment today.
Visual Aids and Tools for Digital Eye Strain
Advances in technology make it possible for people with DES to get some relief. Anti-glare covers for a desktop computer screen and a brighter screen resolution can make it easier on the eyes, decreasing or even eliminating the need to squint or sit too close to your screen. Proper desk chairs with good back support and ergonomic accessories like keyboards and computer stands can all improve your sitting posture for a more comfortable work environment.Dr. Collins will be glad to recommend a number of visual aids or devices that can help with your Digital Eye Strain symptoms, for more comfortable long-term computer use.
Reducing Screen Time
Because tech companies are aware of the danger of too much screen time, many smartphones now include built-in triggers to warn users when their screen time has gone over a certain number of hours. This is done to raise awareness and reduce excessive use.
In addition to computer glasses and ergonomic devices, doctors advise people to take frequent breaks while using digital devices. Walk around, stretch, go outside, and find other activities to do in between computer use. This, combined with visual aids, can help improve or even prevent DES and CVS from developing.