Digital Screens Wreak Havoc on the Eyes: So Know How To Protect Your Vision
December 05, 2022
By Kimberly Blaker
In today's digital world, the amount of time many of us spend plugged in can be a real problem. We may recognize it's sedentary, isolating, and even affects our attention spans. But digital screens also cause eye damage and vision problems.
One of these problems, computer vision syndrome, is also known as digital eye strain. Even more concerning, however, is the permanent damage blue light causes to the eyes. These conditions can affect people of all ages.
Digital Eye Strain
Computer vision syndrome causes eye discomfort and vision problems. As the American Optometric Association (AOA) explains, it results from extended viewing of computer screens, e-readers, tablets, and cell phones. The more time spent on digital devices, the worse the discomfort becomes.
According to The Vision Council, computer vision syndrome symptoms include eyestrain, dry eyes, headache, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain. Fortunately, there are several solutions to prevent or cure computer vision syndrome.
To start, limit your daily leisure media use. Another way to protect against computer vision syndrome is to wear computer eyeglasses. If you experience digital eye strain symptoms, make an appointment with an optometrist for a vision check. Be sure to discuss screen use to determine if computer glasses might be the right choice. Also, when using a computer, position the screen at an arm's distance away. Increase the font size to reduce strain as well. You can also reduce overhead lighting to eliminate glare.
Finally, follow the easy-to-remember 20-20-20 rule that's recommended by the AOA. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second screen break by looking at something 20 feet away.
Blue Light Hazards
In addition to computer vision syndrome, exposure to blue light is another digital screen hazard. Blue light comes from many sources. This includes and comes primarily from sunlight as well as LED and fluorescent lighting. But smartphones, flat-screen TVs, computers, and electronic notebooks also emit significant amounts of blue light.
The problem is that our eyes can't block blue light. So it penetrates the eye lens and cornea, then it reaches the retina. Prolonged exposure to blue light is likely a contributor to macular degeneration and vision loss.
But our eyes aren't the only thing impacted by blue light. Harvard researchers found that blue light affects our circadian rhythm and throws off the body's biological clock. The Harvard Health Letter reported, "Blue light has a dark side," literally. Night-time 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.
Harvard researchers also point out that even dim light affects our circadian rhythm and interferes with melatonin secretion. The lack of sleep that results from it then increases the risk of depression. So there are multiple good reasons to try to reduce blue light exposure.
Minimizing screen time is one of the most obvious ways to reduce exposure. Also, shut down devices with digital screens 2 to 3 hours before bed, if possible. If not, at least dim the screen light in the evenings. If you have a nightlight in your bedroom, use a dim red light instead. This has the least impact on the circadian rhythm and eyes.
Finally, if you spend much time on digital devices, stay up late, or work the night shift, wear blue-blocking glasses. This will also reduce the likelihood of eye damage or throwing your circadian rhythm out of balance.
Kimberly Blaker is a freelance writer. She also owns an online bookshop, Sage Rare & Collectible Books, specializing in out-of-print, scarce, signed, and first editions; fine bindings; ephemera and more at sagerarebooks.com.
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