Addicted to your computer and smartphone? Your eyes hurt? Then it means you have digital eye strain (computer vision syndrome). Here’s what you should know about it and how to prevent it.
As connecting and magical as it may be, technology has its downsides. Cognitive studies have shown that adult attention span has reduced significantly due to technological advances, especially television and the Internet. Not only that, but as you may have probably noticed on yourself, whenever you have a ‘lapse of memory’, what do you do? You quickly ask Google. So, your memory (we’re speaking here about long-term memory) is pretty much ruined. In addition, had that not been enough already, spending too much time in front of the computer also has the potential to increase our appetite, experts say, and hence, make us gain weight in a snap of a finger, as well as make us feel tired and, well, lazy. What are the chances that you hit the gym after a busy day at work? Probably nil, and you’re not the only one. All these together literally skyrocket the risk for disease, anxiety, and may lead to a condition referred to as ‘tech neck’.
Of course, these potential risks seem to fade compared to the wealth of benefits that technology brings. How else could we stay in touch with friends from abroad if not through the wonderous Internet? And this is only one reason that makes it very unlikely that humanity will ever give it up. This being said, let us quickly have a look at the reasons why you should try not to spend a whole day in front of the computer.
What Is Digital Eye Strain or Computer Vision Syndrome?
Can’t keep your eyes open after a long day at the office? There’s a pretty high chance you have computer vision syndrome. Among the common symptoms of this ‘techy’ disease- tired, sore, and often irritated eyes along with blurry vision are noteworthy. However, you don’t necessarily need to be working on a computer all day, every day to develop this condition. This eye discomfort may be felt after only two hours or a bit more spent in front of any screen, and is widely known as digital eye strain, says optometrist Justin Bazan, medical advisor at The Vision Council.
Did you know that 31 percent of Americans have digital eye strain (and as much as 68 percent of millennials)? 22 percent of the people developing this condition have reported experiencing dry eyes, headaches, and even vision problems, while 30 percent suffer from neck and shoulder pain after spending more than two hours in front of a screen per day, The Vision Council notes in a report. This is not in the least surprising, since 52 percent of the working population reports using two devices at the same time on a daily basis.
The good news is that many of these symptoms are temporary and become less severe once you take a break from using any screen devices, the American Optometric Association (AOA) experts suggest. Further research is required to confirm the damaging effect of the blue light emitted by the devices, which is also known as high energy visible light (HEV), Bazan says.
Yet, we need to be cautions about other issues. Other research points to the fact that prolonged exposure to blue light may cause serious damage to the retina, resulting in long-term vision problems like age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and/or cataract. Another damaging effect is that it can inhibit the natural release of melatonin, triggering sleep disorders and interfering with metabolism. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, reading a screen keeping one eye closed may cause temporary blindness in one eye.
Prevention & Treatment
Clearly, you cannot stop using all your devices (especially if your work revolves around that), yet there are a few tips you can try to reduce your digital eye strain to a minimum. If you’re the working out type, feel free to try a few simple yoga poses that will help you improve posture while using your computer or any other device.
Ideally, sit at an arm’s length away from the computer screen. The closer any device is to your eyes, the more it damages your vision, as your eyes need to focus more and turn in. In most cases, this can increase the risk of developing more severe symptoms of digital eye strain, experts suggest.
Alternatively, use of special glasses can significantly minimize the risk and/or alleviate the symptoms of eye strain. If you normally wear glasses and use a computer device constantly, instead of investing in a new pair, you can consider upgrading your own, by adding anti-reflective, blue light-blocking treatments to your lenses. You can also get a pair of non-prescription glasses if your vision is 20/20 already. This does not mean in any way that you can skip medical checkup! If you know that your eyeglass prescription is outdated or inaccurate, it’s time to pay a visit to your doctor. The more you procrastinate things in this case, the worse your vision will get.
Adopt the 20/20/20 rule! Taking a 20-second break from looking at the computer screen every 20 minutes by gazing at something 20 feet away from your station. Even better, walk around the office for a couple of minutes to relax your eyes! It will also help reduce health risks associated with sitting.
Most importantly, use proper lighting! In the majority of cases, eye strain is caused by excessively bright lighting that may be either coming in through a window or from the inside. When using a computer ambient lighting should be half as bright as is typically found in modern offices.
To avoid glare, especially if you’re working in an office or at a station where you get plenty natural light, close or half-close as you feel fit, the drapes or blinds. Dim interior lighting by using fewer fluorescent tubes or light bulbs. Lower intensity bulbs or tubes are always a good alternative. Position your computer/laptop in such a way that the windows are to the side of your screen and not in front or behind it.
Now, follow these few tips and tricks to protect your eyes! More on healthy lifestyle coming up soon, stay tuned!