According to a Nielsen Company audience report, adults in the United States spend on average a staggering 10 hours and 39 minutes each day consuming media (including tablets, smartphones, personal computers, multimedia devices, video games, etc.). This is a one-hour increase when compared to 2015 and based on those statistics, one can predict what 2017 is going to look like.
While our entertainment factor is on the rise, how does continued immersion in the digital world affect our vision? Does it really matter? While researchers in the past have said no, more recently, all signs point to yes.
COMPUTER VISION SYNDROME
Originally reserved for office employees who spend most of their time in front of a computer, computer vision syndrome (CVS) or digital eyestrain, now affects millions regardless of age or occupation. When the visual demands of the task exceed the visual abilities of the person to comfortably perform them, CVS can occur. People who spend two or more continuous hours at the computer or device screen every day are at the highest risk of experiencing the condition – so basically everyone.
- Difficulty Focusing
- Itchy, burning eyes
- Dry eyes
- Blurred or double vision
- Light sensitivity
Constant exposure to screens can cause CVS for several reasons. For one, when staring at a screen you tend to blink less. Under normal conditions, a person will blink 12-15 times per minute, but when you are glued to a screen and your brain is distracted, your blinks per minute decrease to 7 or 8. Less blinking leads to a decrease in lubrication and dry, sore eyes. Staring straight ahead at a computer screen versus looking down at a document also increases the drying of eyes – when you look down more of your eye is naturally covered.
Eyes tend to work harder when viewing text on a screen instead of a paper document as well. Letters on a computer or device are generally not as precise or sharply defined. The color contrast between the letters and background is reduced and any screen glare or reflection can also make viewing difficult, causing an increase in eye fatigue. Any existing, uncorrected vision issues will exacerbate the occurrence of CVS and severity of the condition. In addition, when glasses aren’t designed for extended computer use, people may tilt their heads at odd angles for ease of viewing, resulting in chronic neck, shoulder, or back pain.
Direct exposure to the blue light emitted by LED devices can damage retinas, according to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation. LED screens are found in most electronic devices and retinal damage that affects your central vision system can occur from staring at the light for long periods of time, especially in the dark (something that many American do before bed).
Retinas are the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye, and a new report out claims that internationally, our population is facing a global epidemic of sight loss related to screen time and retinal deterioration. As people age, retinas become increasingly sensitive to damage, but this report warns that it’s not adults that should be mindful of sight loss, but the millions of children exposed to digital screens at a young age. The Guardian reports that there are approximately 900 million children that use devices worldwide without protective screens or glasses.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Making small changes to your daily routine combined with regularly scheduled eye care can help alleviate many of the negative effects brought on by added screen use.
FOLLOW THE 20-20-20 RULE
Take a 20-second break to view something at least 20 feet away every 20 minutes. This will help prevent eyestrain and give your eye a chance to refocus. Beyond that, take a 15-minute break away from a screen after two hours of continuous screen to give your whole body a much-needed break.
POSITION YOUR SCREEN AND DOCUMENTS CORRECTLY
Any screen should be positioned 15 to 20 degrees below eye level as measured from the center of the screen and 20-28 inches from the eyes to reduce eyestrain and overexertion. Any reference materials should be positioned just below a computer monitor, but above the keyboard. The goal is to place the document in an area where you don’t have to move your head much to view them.
REDUCE LIGHTING AND GLARE
Avoid glare by positioning the screen correctly avoiding overhead light. Utilize blinds when needed and replace light bulbs with a lower wattage option. If glare from outside light sources is unavoidable, consider using a screen glare filter to help your eyes remain comfortable throughout the day.
REMEMBER TO BLINK!
Reduce incidence of dry eye by consciously blinking frequently, this will help keep your eyes moist naturally.
BluTech lenses improve contrast, clarity, visual acuity and night vision and most importantly improve your quality of sleep.
Overexposure to blue light may put you at risk for: Sleep problems, eye strain, headaches, migraines, and macular damage.
BluTech Lenses filter blue light via a unique, patented combination of Ocular Lens Pigment and melanin. No other clear lens filters more of the damaging blue light known to be associated with blur, glare, macular damage, and sleep cycle disruption without distorting color.
WHAT YOUR EYE CARE PROVIDER CAN DO FOR YOU.
If you are experiencing any symptoms that resemble computer vision syndrome or retinal damage be sure to schedule an appointment with a trusted eye care provider. CVS and/or retinal damage can be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye exam. Testing may include a discussion of your visual history, visual acuity measurements, a refraction assessment, and a measure of how well your eyes focus, move, and work together.
Your Rx Optical doctor can then either adjust your prescription to meet the unique visual demands of consistent computer use or if haven’t experienced vision issues in the past, can prescribe a pair of eyeglasses for screen use only. Our eye doctors are well-equipped to meet the changing needs of any lifestyle and is there to make sure your eyes remain healthy and active – no matter what.