With the preponderance of digital devices in our lives it's easy to lose track of the hours we spend staring at screens. Whether you are obliged to be in front of a computer for your job duties, or just a TV or video game junkie, the dangers are applicable to you. And that's not to mention the ubiquitous smartphone, which has now become an appendage on even the youngest members of society. Considering this, it's no surprise that Digital Eye Strain is a potential problem for most of us, whether we wear glasses or not. And it's important to consider the ways in which we can mitigate the cumulative damage done to our eyes from digital devices.
So what exactly is Digital Eye Strain? It's simply the discomfort many of us feel after two or more hours in front of any type of digital screen. This includes desktops and laptops, smart phones and tablets, e-readers, TVs, and video games. Other bodily symptoms of overexposure include neck, shoulder, and back pain, headache, blurred vision, and dry eyes. The average person blinks about 18 times a minute, but staring at screen causes blink rates to reduce, resulting in dry, itchy or burning eyes and can even cause permanent changes to tear fluid.
The optical industry has begun paying attention to blue light, also called high-energy visible (HEV) light, exposure. This is the category of light emitted from backlit displays. Blue light can reach even deeper into the eye than UV, and may damage the retina with cumulative exposure (which could lead to macular degeneration.) Digital devices expose the eye to hidden spikes in intensity at wavelengths within the blue part of the spectrum.
Blue light can also impact circadian rhythms by suppressing the release of melatonin (the hormone that controls the day-night cycle in the body.)
This January, The Vision Council released its third annual Digital Eye Strain Report, based on a study involving around 10k participants conducted in October, 2014. Its findings about the amount of time most of us spend on digital devices is a little shocking - 1/3 of adults spend more than half their waking hours staring at a screen. But many of us have no choice; our livelihoods are dependent on hours in front a computer. So what can be done?
Tips for preventing digital eye strain:
Tips for kids
If you suspect you are suffering from digital eye strain, get an evaluation from your eye care provider.
The Vision Council (2015, January) Hindsight is 20/20/20: Protect Your Eyes from Digital Devices, 2015 Digital Eye Strain Report, Retrieved February, 03, 2015, from http://www.thevisioncouncil.org/