Take a moment to think about all the time you spend looking at screens throughout the day. Between your smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop, gaming system and television, you may be spending more time looking at a screen than you do sleeping.
But what is this digital dependence doing to your eyes? Can screen time actually hurt your eyes and vision? Bay Area laser eye surgery specialist Mark Mandel, MD, explains what you need to know here.
Understanding Digital Eye Strain
One of the threats of so much screen time is a condition called digital eye strain, or a collection of symptoms that affect over half of all people that work in front of a computer. Digital eye strain symptoms include itching, burning or dry eyes, eye fatigue and headaches.
Experts believe these symptoms are caused by too much exposure to the “blue” light emitted by most digital devices. These very short, high energy wavelengths of light are thought to irritate the eyes, and some scientists even believe they can cause long-term damage to the retinal cells (though this is being debated).
The blue light emitted by digital devices also disrupts natural sleep patterns, which can contribute to eye strain.
Another factor that can fatigue the eyes is focusing at the near range of a digital device like a cell phone, tablet or laptop. This tires the eye’s muscles over time. And, people tend to blink less when fixated on a screen; a slower blink rate dries out the eyes.
How to Protect Your Eyes from Digital Eye Strain
There are a few things you can do to protect yourself from the eye damage associated with electronic devices. Obviously, it’s a good idea to limit screen time when not working. But it is impossible for many people to avoid using screens at work.
Following the 20-20-20 rule is helpful. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break to focus on an object 20 feet away. Look into special blue light filters, which may limit how much blue light reaches the retina, for your work computer, or download a blue light filter app for your smartphone. Reduce overhead lighting to eliminate screen glare. Finally, remind yourself to blink often, perhaps by placing a Post-It note on your work computer, which can help keep the eyes moist.
Email Our Bay Area Vision Specialist
If you have any questions about digital eye strain, feel free to email Mark Mandel, MD.