Staying up late watching videos on an iPad, an eight-hour workday in front of a computer screen, countless hours spent reading emails, text messages, and daily news on a smartphone—our eyes are taking the brunt of our digital lifestyle, resulting in headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, fatigue, and other issues. But these aren’t just symptoms, digital eyestrain or computer vision syndrome is a disorder caused by our screen time habits. While the hours of screen time aren’t likely to cause permanent vision loss, Dr. John Zeiter, an optometrist at Zeiter Eye, warns that symptoms of digital eyestrain can occur quite frequently.
“Too much screen time can lead to dry eyes as well as burdening the focusing muscles of the eyes,” Dr. Zeiter says. This, most frequently, causes headaches. That’s why office workers who spend a lot of time looking at digital devices report frequent headaches. Have you ever spent so many hours staring at your computer screen that your vision started to blur or you had to increase the size of the font to read it more clearly? That’s called digital eyestrain, which references a group of eye- and vision-related problems. In general, extended or excessive viewing can result in eye discomfort and vision problems, and the problem could be getting worse as COVID-19 forces us to live a more virtual life.
Reducing screen time is the best way to minimize the effects, but that’s not always a possibility. Luckily, there are some tips to help. “To minimize eyestrain, take breaks while using digital devices, use artificial tears, keep your eyes at least 18-24 inches from the screen, and increase the size of the text,” Dr. Zeiter says. You can also wear blue light blocking glasses. “Although there has been little definitive proof that ‘blue blocker’ in glasses make a difference, I personally use them in my own reading glasses and filtering excessive blue light seems to relieve some of the strain.”
The good news is that the effects of excessive screen time appear to be temporary. In addition to a low possibility of permanent vision loss, very few studies have been able to prove a connection between long-term retina harm caused by blue light.
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, especially after digital screen time, try utilizing Dr. Zeiter’s tips above. And if that isn’t enough, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor to assess eye health and rule out any underlying issues.
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