During this time, it is undebatable that most people spend too much time on some type of screen: Ipads, computers gaming devices and in my opinion the worst one of all–– cellphones. Education on the dangers of spending too much time on these have caused some people to be moved toward protection and modification but many remain without action.
Every day, repeatedly, I see patients complaining on what is the effect of screen exposure on our eyes, typical complaints are: eye fatigue, eyestrain, tired eyes, tearing, dry eyes, burning, headache and blurry vision or inability to focus.
"What is the amount of time you spend on a computer?" ––I ask.
"I work all day on the computer."––most of them answer.
Another common scenario is finding a drastic increase of nearsightedness or Myopia in kids every year or seeing how the incidence of myopia is more prominent and increasing lately. These are all consequences of our digital era.
I will explain to you the reason behind all of this in the same way that I explain to my patient while on my examining chair.
1. When you are on a screen, you tend to blink less and your eyes dry up more and faster. This causes burning, tearing, tired eyes and intermittent blurry vision.
2. Reading at near or up close for long periods of time causes the eye muscles in your eye responsible for focusing to spasm or have a hard time relaxing back to its natural state for far away vision. This is what causes eye fatigue, blurry vision and headaches. In kids, adolescents and young adults, the defocusing effect that this has on the retina is responsible for the eyes being stimulated to become more myopic as it still has the ability to grow.
3. The light emitted from the screens, knows as blue light, causes eyestrain and fatigue. It is also being studied for its role in eye disease like cataracts and macular degenerations. This means that the present generation, where even toddlers are having an early and increase amount of screen time exposure, could be more at risk of prematurely developing this eye diseases. They need to be protected early.
What can we do?
1. Protect everyone from the effects of blue light while limiting and moderating screen exposure. In the case where you work on the computer, protect yourself from blue at all times. Wearing glasses with blue light protection is the more effective way, since it will protect you not just from one single computer, but from every screen along your day––every other computer, Ipad or cellphone screen time that you have during your day.
2. Take breaks to relax your vision. A good habit is to take a break of 2 minutes, every 20 minutes, to stand up, drink some water and look far away.
3. Use lubricant tear drops at least once or twice a day if you spend all day on the computer. See your doctor if you have dry eye symptoms regularly since you might need other treatments.
4. Have your nearsighted kid or teenager see an Optometrist specialized in Myopia control. They will discussed treatment methods that could effectively control the progression of Myopia, the most effective being Orthokeratology or Ortho-k.
Keep in mind that preserving your vision and that of our little young ones is always worth the effort.