The digital age is upon us and virtually everyone has a screen in the palm of their hand. A survey done by the Nielsen Company found that the average American spend almost 11 hours a day staring at a screen, whether it be a computer, TV or smartphone. All this screen time can take a toll on the eyes. The Vision Council found in 2017 that adults in the United States are reporting symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) more often. These symptoms include:
- Eye strain — 31 percent
- Dry eye — 22 percent
- Headache — 22.6 percent
- Blurred vision — 22.1 percent
- Neck and shoulder pain — 30.1 percent
CVS is a broadly used term used to describe any vision-related issues caused by prolonged use of electronic screens. Blue light, which is produced by electronic screens, aggravates many of the symptoms associated with CVS.
Caring for Your Eyes in The Digital Age
Balancing the endless appeal of screens with common sense eye health need not completely end your enjoyment of all the information and entertainment arriving through flickering screens. Some suggestions to improve and protect your eyes:
- Take Vitamin Supplements — The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) has found that fish oil supplements may have a big impact on improving eye health.
- Take breaks — Use the 20-20-20 rule. The AAO recommends this “eye ergonomic” strategy. Take a break from screens every 20 minutes. Focus on an object 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This gives your eyes a rest and exercises them at the same time.
- Dim the Lights — The lights around you are competing with the screens you are watching. This causes your eyes to work harder to focus, which leads to increased eye strain. Fix this by dimming the lights around you when possible. You should also avoid watching screens when in direct sunlight.
- Consider Glasses — Reduce eye strain by reducing the amount of glare coming off electronic screens with a special pair of glasses. These glasses have an anti-reflective coating.
- Blue Light Blocking Software — Battle dry eye by changing the tones and hues of your screens. Blue light is a short wavelength and reaches deep into the eye. It may hasten macular degeneration. It definitely alters your wake-and-sleep cycles. Software that blocks blue light can be found for almost any device.
- Blink! —It is so simple, we often forget to do it; the New York Times points out the average blink rate is 17 times a minute, but when watching a screen people blink less often; by remembering to blink you can give your eyes a quick rest and coat them with a little moisture to help prevent dry eye
- Lower the brightness on the screen — The experts at Wired explain this as a win-win, because it extends battery life and reduces the amount of blue light on your eyes
- Annual eye exam — Make an appoint with an eye doctor to head off worsening eye health. You doctor can spot any weaknesses that may be developing and help provide prevention methods.
Children and Screen Time
Adults do not suffer CVS alone. The number of children suffering from these symptoms is also on the rise. Parents have a responsibility to reduce screen time in young children, says the Mayo Clinic. Children under two should have no screen time; for children two to five years of age, one hour a day is enough.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agrees with the Mayo Clinic’s findings, and further recommends that families develop media viewing plans for everyone. This should include time with no media or screens of any kind. This will not only save children’s eyesight, it will improve their social skills and reduce bullying.
Whether young, old or somewhere in between, our eyes are precious and valuable windows to our world. The screens we use to watch what we cannot experience firsthand should never harm our eyes. For a better and clearer tomorrow, remember to take a few minutes every now and then to exercise your eyes.