We have been surrounded by technology at our fingertips for several years now. The events of 2020 have only increased the time many people spend in front of some type of screen. In many ways, digital devices serve us well. They are enabling people to work from home as needed and providing educational access to kids of all ages. As necessary as it is for us to be able to utilize the digital screens at our disposal, some pitfalls need to be understood. One of the major risks of using smartphones, tablets, televisions, and other devices routinely is digital eyestrain. Here, we discuss why the eyes can be harmed by digital devices and what you can do to protect your eyes.
What Causes Digital Eyestrain?
- Prolonged exposure to screens. Digital eye strain can be a serious issue and one that is difficult to avoid simply because we use technology so frequently. According to a study by Vision Service Plan, children have accrued approximately 50,000 hours staring at a digital device by age 17. In recent years, eye care professionals have reported a marked increase in the cases of digital eye strain they see annually.
- Sitting too close to a digital screen. Reports have suggested that people tend to hold screens closer to the face than printed material. Studies show that digital screens are held about 20% closer than books or other print. It is difficult for the eyes to focus when they are forced to observe objects at close-range because the eyes are angling too far towards center.
- Staring. We do this when we read just about anything, and even when we’re focusing on a task, such as sewing or painting. When we stare, the surface of the eyes becomes dry because there is less tear film getting spread. The tear film is moved across the eyes when we blink.
- Blue light. Blue light from digital devices is artificial. It is a large contributor to digital eye strain and is not naturally blocked by the eyes. When we look at any LED screen, its blue light is penetrating to the retina at the back of the eye. Prolonged exposure can adversely affect retinal health and increase the risk of macular degeneration.
How to Protect Your Eyes
The best way to protect your eyes from digital eye strain is to limit how long you are in front of a screen. If you must work at a computer, add a blue-light blocker. There are also blue-light blockers, such as EyeJust, for cellular phones.
Another way to protect your eyes is to sit at least 2 1/2 times the size of your screen away from it. For example, you should sit approximately 37 inches away from a 15-inch screen. If you watch a big-screen television, you should sit approximately 10 feet away from the screen. Finally, take breaks from long stretches at the computer. Every 20 minutes, look about 20 feet away for 20 to 30 seconds.