Skip to main content

BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Digital screens wreak havoc on the eyes

May 15, 2019 02:30PM ● By Kimberly Blaker

There are many pros and cons to the digital devices now at everyone's fingertips. But there's one con, in particular, that many people aren't familiar with. Digital screens can cause eye damage and vision problems in people of all ages. One of these problems is called computer vision syndrome, also known as digital eye strain. Particularly concerning, however, is the permanent damage caused by blue light. Digital eye strain Computer vision syndrome, as American Optometric Association (AOA) explains, is eye discomfort and vision problems that result from extended viewing of computer screens, e-readers, tablets, and cell phones. With this condition, the more time spent on digital devices, the greater the discomfort becomes.

According to The Vision Council, the symptoms of computer vision syndrome include eye strain, dry eyes, headache, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain.

Fortunately, there are solutions to prevent or cure computer vision syndrome. The first is to set limits on your daily leisure media use.

When using a computer, the screen should be positioned at an arm's distance away. Increasing the font size helps to reduce strain as well. Also, to eliminate glare, reduce overhead lighting.

Another way to protect against computer vision syndrome is by wearing computer eyeglasses. Make an appointment with an optometrist to discuss your screen use to determine if computer glasses are right for you.

Finally, follow the 20-20-20 rule recommended by the AOA. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second screen break by looking at something 20 feet away.

Blue light hazards Exposure to blue light is another hazard of digital screens. Blue light comes from many sources, primarily sunlight as well as LED and fluorescent lighting. But smart phones, flat-screen TVs, computers and electronic notebooks also emit significant amounts of blue light.

The reason this is a problem is that our eyes cannot block blue light. As a result, it penetrates the eye lens and cornea and reaches the retina. Prolonged exposure to blue light likely contributes to macular degeneration and vision loss.

Harvard researchers found that blue light affects the circadian rhythm and throws off the body's biological clock as well. Nighttime light exposure appears to be particularly unhealthy. Numerous studies have linked exposure to light at night (while working the night shift) with breast and prostate cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. But our eyes aren't the only thing impacted by blue light. Even dim light affects people’s circadian rhythm and interferes with melatonin secretion. The resulting lack of sleep then increases the risk for depression. Shut down devices two to three hours before bed, if possible, or at least dim the screen light in the evenings.

If you use a nightlight, use a dim red light, which has the least impact on the circadian rhythm and the eyes.

If you spend much time on digital devices, stay up late, or work the night shift, wear blue-blocking glasses to reduce the likelihood of damage to your eyes or throwing your circadian rhythm out of balance