When it comes to the use of digital devices, there are plenty of worries in today’s fast-paced world. According to recent surveys, 60% of American adults are on their digital devices more than six hours per day, 28% exceed 10 hours per day. More alarming, 85% of parents report that their children use devices for more than 4 hours a day! Inevitably, as more electronic classroom time is incorporated in schools these numbers will increase. Hours of screen time add up to eyestrain and the possibility of serious eye and health risks associated with short wavelength blue light.
Computer Vision Syndrome, also known as Digital Eye Strain, is caused by overuse of electronic devices and can manifest in many ways. It is associated with tired, burning, watering, blurred vision, double vision, light sensitivity, headache, fatigue, tearing, eye dryness and trouble focusing.
Recent studies also suggest that prolonged use of electronics may be responsible for more serious long-term eye and health problems as well. The focus of these investigations is the short wavelength blue light that is believed to have adverse effects on eye health. This spectrum of high energy visible (HEV) blue light is all around us – emitted by the sun, LED lights, smartphones, tablets, and computers.
Today’s screens and LED lights are more brilliant in color, brightness, and clarity and emit significantly more (HEV) blue light than their older counterparts. Our retinas, lining in the back of the eye, contain photosensitive nerve cells that are susceptible to the blue wavelengths. Blue light exposure can cause disruption of these cells and lead to a decrease in melatonin production.
Melatonin plays a key role in regulating sleep, blood glucose and blood pressure. It’s also a powerful antioxidant linked to decreasing risk of cancer. In addition, the blue light can damage the eye itself and lead to cataracts, retinal damage and macular degeneration (a disease that can cause loss of vision). Thus, exposure to electronics and LED lighting, especially before bedtime, can create long-term health consequences.
WAYS YOU CAN DECREASE DIGITAL EYE STRAIN AND HEV BLUE LIGHT EXPOSURE
1. Have a yearly eye exam: An optometrist can detect early signs of cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration and recommend ways to protect your vision.
2. Blocking the blue: Use blue light limiting settings or a filter screen on your digital devices and blue light filtering lenses in your glasses.
3. Choose smart lighting options: New light bulb technologies with low blue light emission are available.
4. 20/20/20 Rule: Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet away.
5. Blink frequently: when staring at a screen we blink less frequently which causes the surface of the eye to dry out.
6. Eat a healthy diet low in saturated and trans fats, and high in omega-3’s, carotenoids, lutein, and zeaxanthin to protect the retina. Limiting exposure to LED and electronics is the obvious method of cutting down on the potential damage from the blue light. Dietary changes, not smoking and being meticulous about sun protection is also recommended. Most electronics have a low blue wavelength setting or a monitor filter may be used.
An annual comprehensive eye exam is an important part of your health maintenance. Call our office to schedule your eye exam today and let us keep your eyes healthy and not seeing the blues!