Many of us in 2017 spend a tremendous amount of time interacting with digital devices like smartphones, tablets, and computer screens on a day-to-day basis.
Digital eye strain is a real medical issue that affects millions of Americans. According to a 2014 report by Dr. Scott Sikes writing for Optometry Times, “approximately 28 percent of people spend 10 or more hours in front of digital devices daily. The number only goes up from there, as approximately 65 percent spend between three to nine hours per day in front of a digital device. In 2011, Internet usage alone was up to 2.2 billion users compared to just three million users in 1990, only twenty years earlier.”
The Vision Council has data showing that Americans report experiencing the following symptoms of digital eye strain:
- 32.6 percent report experiencing eye strain
- 22.7 percent report experiencing dry eyes
- 21.4 percent report experiencing headache
- 22 percent report experiencing blurred vision
- 30.8 percent report experiencing neck and shoulder pain
Digital eye strain unfortunately affects our older patients in a more pronounced way. As we age, our eyes become drier and lose their ability to focus as well as in earlier years, and the impact of blue light is amplified. That blue light emitted by digital device, over time,, causes the most harmful long-term effects on our eyesight.
Redness and dryness (due to decreased blinking), blurry vision and headaches from screen glare and blue light emissions, and even neck/back pain from poor posture are all symptoms of digital eye strain caused by 2+ hours of daily device use. If you’re experiencing any of these, it may be time to talk to your Eye Center, Inc. optometrist.
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There are also some tricks you can try at home or work to avoid digital eye strain.
Blink often. It sounds silly that we have to be reminded to blink. But when we’re scrolling through News Feeds, sometimes our brain ignores the eye’s innate trigger to blink and moisten our eyes. Remind yourself to blink every time you hit that “like” button. You can also try artificial tears, which are helpful for treating the symptom, but fail to address the cause of dryness.
We also love the 20×4 rule. Screens should be at least 20 inches from your face, and every 20 minutes of use, take a 20 second break to stare at something 20 feet away. This will relieve strain on your eyes and also helps to combat general fatigue.
Your friends may tease you at first, but increasing the font size on your devices can help reduce eye strain as well. You’ll have the last word when you’re experiencing fewer headaches.
If you tend to use your computer in the evenings, you can install a blue light filter on your PC or Mac that helps reduce some of the light emitted. At night time, blue light’s effect is amplified and can lead to difficulty sleeping.
Adjust your screen light or your room lighting so there isn’t as much contrast between a bright screen and dim room, for example. You’ll find that you have less trouble with glare over time.
Let’s break down the reasons why the blue light that our beloved devices emit is harmful to our eyesight. Our perma-patient, Ashley, recently chatted with Dr. Paige Gillenwaters-Laudicina who helped us make sense of all the science.
A: All this blue light talk is making my head spin. Can you explain exactly what the sources of blue light are?
PGL: You encounter blue light in almost every daily activity. Fluorescent lighting in your office, each and every electronic screen you see (phones, tablets, computers, TVs, etc.), and even the sun emits damaging high-energy blue light.
A: How does blue light harm our eyes?
PGL: Blue light causes the gradual deterioration of the macula over your lifetime, leaving our eyes susceptible to macular degeneration.
A: Ok… so what is macular degeneration?
PGL: The progressive deterioration of the macula and is the leading cause of visual impairment. This loss of vision affects reading, writing, driving, color perception, and other cognitive functions… and serious complications can lead to blindness.
P: But what exactly is the macula?
PGL: The macula in the human eye is the point where light is focused, through the cornea & lens. This is what takes the picture that is sent to the brain, where vision is processed.
A: Sounds important.
PGL: Yes, the macula provides us with the ability to read and see in great detail (whereas the rest of the retina provides peripheral vision). The high degree of sophisticated structure in the macula is one of the things that separate man from other beings on earth. It’s VERY important to the structure of the macula to be undisturbed, and relatively dry, in order for images you see to be clear and your vision to be good.
A: I’m in front of a computer 9 hours a day… and it feels like the other 15 hours are spent on my phone! What should I do?
PGL: Well, definitely start with the tips we discussed above that slow blue light’s effect on your macula. And be sure to ask me or another Eye Center, Inc. optometrist about BluTech Lenses.
In scientific terms, the BluTech Lenses that Dr. Laudicina mentioned earlier filter high-energy blue and ultra-violet light using ocular lens pigment derived from the auto-oxidation of 3- Hydroxykynurenine (3-OHKyn). The ocular lens pigment is then combined with melanin and isolated in a durable material. When used in an optical lens, this infusion of pigment provides the same protection, contrast enhancement, and color perception to the eye as the natural yellow-brown coloration of the human crystalline lens.
And now in real talk, BluTech Lenses create a barrier for the macula by directly infusing the perfect amount of ocular lens pigment and melanin into the lenses. This allows for optimal eye protection – without altering or distorting color perception. Your eyes are shielded from the dangers of UV rays and the harmful high-energy blue lights we’re discussing today.
Our practice recommends BluTech Lenses especially for those who work at a computer throughout most of the day, or tend to spend a significant proportion of time during non-daylight hours on a phone or tablet. The benefits of these products beyond protection against UV and blue light are improved natural depth, color perception, visual acuity, night vision, contrast and a reduction in glare.
If you are experiencing severe symptoms that could be related to digital eye strain, it’s important that you call us today at (941) 756-2020 and schedule an appointment with any of our six optometrists at the Eye Center, Inc. We offer three convenient optometry offices and optical centers in the Manatee County area.
Check out this great infographic from AllAboutVision.com:
Digital Eye Strain