Are digital devices harming your vision?
This story is provided and presented by our sponsor.
We live in an increasingly digital world. From checking email on our phones right after we get up and working on computers all day to watching TV or reading e-books at night – digital devices have become fixtures in our lives.
The risk of digital eye strain
Unfortunately, all of this time spent staring at digital screens can affect your vision. According to the 2015 digital eye strain report from The Vision Council, over 90 percent of American adults use digital devices more than two hours each day.
This exposure to digital screens can increase your risk for digital eye strain, also known as computer vision syndrome. In fact, since the Vision Council conducted its first digital eye strain survey in 2012, the use of digital technology has increased every year. While anything over two hours can increase your risk for computer vision syndrome, the latest survey also noted that nearly 30 percent of American adults use their digital devices more than nine hours each day.
However, it's not just adults. According to the report, one in four children use digital devices more than three hours a day.
What causes digital eye strain?
It's not just using these devices that causes computer vision syndrome. It's the way we use them.
Whether it's a smartphone, computer or other digital device, any of the following can increase your risk for digital eye strain:
- Sitting too close: Holding your portable digital device too close or hunching over your computer screen forces your eyes to work harder. This can strain your eyes' focusing muscles.
- Poor posture: Hunching to get closer to the screen not only affects your vision; it can also lead to related health issues such as back pain.
- Environmental lighting: Harsh lighting and glare on your screen can also force your eyes to work harder.
- Blue light: The high-energy blue light that digital screens emit reaches deeper into the eye. Emerging research suggests that prolonged exposure to blue light may damage retinal cells and increase your risk for vision issues later in life, including age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. In addition, when you use your digital devices at night, this blue light can affect your circadian rhythm, tricking your brain into thinking that it's not time to go to sleep.
- Preexisting condition: If you have a refractive condition such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism or presbyopia, or if you have glaucoma or cataracts – this also may increase the effects of computer vision syndrome.
How do I know if I have computer vision syndrome?
If you experience any of the following, digital devices could be causing computer vision syndrome:
- Blurred or double vision
- Dry, red or watery eyes
- Eye irritation or soreness
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Loss of focus
How can I prevent digital eye strain?
- The 20-20-20 rule: When using digital devices, take a 20-second break every 20 minutes, and look at something at least 20 feet away.
- Take breaks: Walking away periodically will have the double benefit of reducing your time in front of your screen as well as stretching your legs.
- Blink: One of the natural ways to refresh our eyes is to blink, but people tend to blink less often when staring at digital screens. Make a conscious effort to blink frequently.
- Change your workspace: Use an adjustable chair to ensure that you have good posture and can see your computer screen without sitting too close – your screen should be at least an arm's length away from you. You can also change the screen's brightness and font settings to find the best settings for your particular vision needs. Finally, examine the lighting around you and adjust it or use an anti-glare protective monitor screen to reduce reflections and glare on your screen.
- Mobile device settings: Adjust the font size and lighting contrast on your smartphone, tablet, e-reader or laptop so that you can read the screen without having to sit too close.
- Reduce blue light at night: Digital device manufacturers are building in features to dim or change the color of your screen, reducing the amount of blue light emitted. However, even with a reduced amount of blue light, you should turn off your digital device at least an hour before bedtime.
If you think you have digital eye strain, get a comprehensive eye exam from an ophthalmologist.
Lawrence Hamburger, M.D.,is a board-certified ophthalmologist seeing patients at Henry Ford OptimEyes Super Vision Center in Troy. For an appointment, visithenryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).
For more tips on health and wellness, visithenryfordlivewell.com and subscribe for weekly updates.
This story is provided and presented by our sponsor Henry Ford Health System.