Research by the Vision Council shows that 60% of Americans spend at least five hours each day using an electronic device. In today’s highly tech-based work and social life, it’s very easy to spend the day staring at a screen of some sort and not even realize it has been done. While mobile devices and computers are a standard part of life now, research is showing that it can have serious effects on health.
Eyesight problems related to digital eye strain is a huge concern for optometrists these days. They’re treating a growing number of patients complaining of headaches, blurred vision, dryness, dizziness, and insomnia. Optometrists have labeled the condition “computer vision syndrome,” and they’ve determined the cause to be the blue light emitted from devices with a screen – such as a smart phone, tablet, reader, or computer.
While UV rays are the invisible part of the light spectrum, reds and yellows are at the longer wavelength and blue and purple light is at the shorter end of the wavelength. More energy is emitted by the shorter wavelength light. Our eyes have evolved and adapted over time to block out much of the harmful UV rays from reaching the sensitive retina. Our eyes haven’t, however, adapted to blocking out blue light. In fact, our eyes have adapted to it by allowing it to directly pass through to the retina. Prolonged exposure to the powerful blue light from LED screens is what causes the damage.
Many positive health benefits come from blue light, such as regulation of sleep cycles and endorphin stimulation. The problem is in the amount of exposure, especially amongst children with still developing eyes.
The Huffington Post lists some tips to help minimize the risk of computer vision syndrome from prolonged exposure to blue light:
1. Invest in regular eye exams once a year to identify eye problems and learn preventative measures.
2. Use a computer lens that’s treated with a coating that specifically blocks blue light to avoid eye strain. Specialized computer glasses were first utilized by the video gaming community. Today, there are an array of eyewear retailers offering these specialized glasses, even in designer frames.
3. Stay well hydrated to prevent dryness and ensure the eye is properly lubricated.
4. Give your eyes a break three times each hour behind a screen. Do this by stopping to look away at something at least 20 ft away, closing the eyes for a few seconds, and blinking.
5. Keep screens clean of dust and fingerprints that can actually reflect and amplify blue light.
6. Keep lighting adjustments appropriately set on devices. There are apps that can help reduce the brightness if the device doesn’t have a brightness control and night mode setting.
Statistics show that there are over 10 million eye doctor visits each year with computer vision syndrome problems, and spending just two hours each day in front of a computer screen makes you 90% more likely to develop the syndrome. The impact of damaging the eye can cause loss of productivity at work and have long-term, expensive health effects.