In this day and age, it seems we are surrounded by digital screens that vie for our attention constantly. And for most of us, they are hard to resist because they have become affordable, accessible, and portable. Think TVs, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Together, they’re a major factor in ocular health for the Princeton patients who visit our optometrists and eye care professionals.
As a society, we have become hungry for information — be it useful or mostly irrelevant. Other than reading e-books, this also means extended viewing of our emails, the latest YouTube videos, or our friends’ posts on Facebook and Instagram. We are so attached to our smartphones that a mere few hours apart from it can give us anxiety.
What Causes Digital Eyestrain?
Every eye doctor in Princeton, New Jersey and throughout the country will tell you that digital eye strain is a serious issue. A new study by the Vision Service Plan (VSP) shows that by the time an American teenager turns 17, that teenager has spent a third of his or her life staring a digital device. That’s almost 6 years — or about 50,000 hours. And because of this amount, eye care specialists are witnessing a growing number of patients suffering from digital eye strain.
So please, encourage your kids to lead an active lifestyle, teach them to enjoy the outdoors and maybe even read a book or 2 during the summer (the old-fashioned way, that is).
Reading Too Close
According to another report published in 2011, we have a tendency to stay closer to digital screens when reading than we do when reading something in print. About 20% closer, to be exact. Reading from devices up close places heavy demands on the eyes, since you are forced to focus harder and your eyes actually angle inward towards each other.
The next time you are staring at a digital screen, try reading from farther away — and if that’s not possible, there’s nothing wrong with increasing the font size.
We also blink less when staring at a digital screen than we do when reading a printed page, which in turn results in our eyes becoming dry and sore.
On a personal note, I think my nephew forgot how to blink entirely when he got his new racing game and started playing it on the big screen TV. So remember to take breaks — and please don’t forget to blink.
Artificial Blue Light
Artificial blue light also plays an important part in contributing to digital eye strain. All the LCD and LED screens that surround us emit it. Due to its short wavelength, our eyes are not very good at blocking blue light. Therefore, it penetrates all the way to the retina. Prolonged exposure to these digital screens will adversely affect the health of the retina, and it can possibly lead to macular degeneration. I will talk in more detail about blue light and its adverse short-and-long-term effects in my next blog post.
How to Protect Your Eyes
Remember, the easiest way to minimize digital eye strain is to reduce overall exposure to digital displays and to take breaks in between. When that’s unavoidable, here are a couple rules of thumb to live by:
1) Follow the 20-20-20 break plan: Take a 20-second break every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away.
2) For every inch of screen size you should be 2 ½ times as far away from it. So you should be about 10 feet (i.e., 120 inches) away from a 50-inch HD screen.
Have more questions about how best to take care of your eyes? Leave us a question in the comments below!