Protecting Your Eyes When Using Digital Devices

We wear sunglasses to protect our eyes from the harmful rays of UV light, but the average person is unaware of the many ways the hours per day we spend in front of a screen can cause irreversible damage to our eyes, health, and wellbeing. Digital devices present many dangers including:

  • Eye strain or computer vision syndrome from excessive use of mid distance vision.
  • Dry eyes disease and discomfort due to a lower rate of blinking when looking at screens which causes excessive evaporation of our natural lubrication.
  • Increased risk of Myopia and the risks associated with high and medium myopia.
  • Danger posed by blue spectrum light in digital devices which can effect both eye health and general health.

How Screen Time Effects The Eye

Staring at a screen for hours at a time puts incredible stress on your eyes, especially when your glasses and contact lenses are not calibrated for mid-distance viewing. This stress causes Computer Vision Syndrome which is estimated to affect 50-90% of adults. Common symptoms of computer vision syndrome are tired eyes, dry eyes, painful eyes, and headaches. Symptoms generally occur after long periods at a computer or looking at a phone. In addition to the viewing angles causing strain on the visual system, staring at screens is associated with an increase in the upper back and neck pain.

Studies show that we blink much less when using a digital device. Generally blinking rates are effected by the brightness of the screen as well as the task being performed (with more intensive thinking tasks causing less blinking). Not only is our rate of blinking decreased by up to 80%, but the type of blink is effected as well, with a huge increase in incomplete blinks when using a digital device. Since our eyes are dependent on blinks to refresh the tear layer to keep our eye moist, the lack of blinking causes symptoms associated with dry eyes disease.

Light is made up of different colors in the spectrum to produce what we consider white or warm white light. Cooler or whiter colors are made up of more colors from the blue spectrum. As we are exposed to more and more light from computers, cell phones and other devices, we need to be careful of the long term effects of exposure. Our eyes are not effective at filtering out blue light and virtually 100% of the light travels through the cornea into our retina. Several studies have shown that blue light does cause damage to the retina and may have an increased risk of macular degeneration (the leading cause of blindness for the elderly).

Myopia and Digital Devices

While the exact causes of childhood myopia is still unclear, research has shown a correlation with near tasks and the occurrence and severity of Myopia. One thing is absolutely clear, myopia is increasing at epidemic proportions with close to 90% of Asian university students having myopia, and an estimate that by 2050 close to 5 billion people will have myopia. The key takeaway is that increased screen time increases the risk of myopia, and myopia is the number one preventable cause of vision loss in the world. Children who have high myopia are at a very significant increased risk of eye diseases such as cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, and retinal detachment.

The Golden Rule
Follow the 202020 rule, every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break, look at something 20 feet away.

Dry eyes/Blinking

  • Work with a computer/phone screen that has reduced brightness.
  • Download an app that reminds you to take micro-breaks such as EyeLeo.
  • During your break perform blinking exercises such as blinking while holding the corner of your eyes, and 3 long blinks.

Eye Strain

  • Adjust your lighting so there is no excessive bright light in the room (such as a large window).
  • Choose a newer model monitor.
  • Purchase computer glasses or contact lenses which are made to include mid distance.

Blue Light

  • Purchase blue light blocking lens coatings. There are many different options on the market, it is important to look for a coating that blocks a higher percentage of light.
  • Consider a screen protector for your laptop or phone that further reduces blue light.

For every hour of screen time have one hour of outdoor time to counter balance.