Anyone who has lost track of three hours staring at their computer may be familiar with the feeling of eyes glued to the screen.
As it turns out, glancing at our phones, tablets and laptops too much on a daily basis no good for our eyes. It can cause symptoms of digital eye strain, which comes from the hard work our eyes have to do while navigating the screen.
According to the American Optometric Association, using phones, computers and other devices requires special but particularly demanding “skills” on our eyes, including: eye motilitysystem of moving from one position to another; accommodation, the ability to shift focus from one distance to another; and: deviationmoving the eyes towards the nose and away from the nose depending on the distance.
“Our eyes were not designed to use computers and digital devices, especially for long periods of time,” said the doctor. Robert C. Layman, former AOA president, said in an email.
“As a result, many people who spend long hours reading or working on screens experience eye discomfort and vision problems.”
In the world we live in, with everything great available at our fingertips, it’s probably not realistic to cut screen time completely (although it can be done). So here’s what you need to know about what screen smudges can do to your eyes and how to safely remove them.
Eye strain and blue light. What does too much “screening” do to your eyes?
There has been much debate about blue light, which we receive in large doses from the sun and in smaller amounts from our screens. Blue light exposure signals to our bodies that it’s time to feel awake, which is one of the reasons why using your phone before bed can be one of the biggest sleep disruptors because it disrupts our sleep-wake cycle.
Although research shows that exposure to blue light from the sun over time can increase the risk of vision-loss diseases, including macular degeneration and cataracts, it has not yet been proven that this risk is transferred to our electronic light. devices, according to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation. Available research tends to show retinal cell damage at 3 microwatts or more, the AMDF says, compared to the typical 1 microwatt of light passing through our screens.
Dr. Matt Starr, a clinical spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, said in an email that blue light itself “does not cause permanent eye damage.”
Layman, however, said that too much exposure to blue light can cause digital eye strain, which can lead to age-related vision problems in some patients.
Blue light exposure aside, eye strain is a common and uncomfortable problem. Although it can feel “a little differently to people,” according to Starr, it’s a set of symptoms that come from staring at a screen for long periods of time.
“Common symptoms include blurred vision, foreign body sensation, itching, headache and dry eye,” he said.
Interestingly, Layman says that screen time may also lead to an increased risk of infection in some cases because we blink less when looking at a screen.
“Blinking helps produce tears and spread them across the cornea, which keeps your eyes moist,” Layman said. “When the eyes don’t have enough tears to wash away the foreign material, they are more prone to infection.”
So do blue light glasses really work?
There really is no proven medical benefit yet. But there’s no harm in seeing if they help you.
“While some patients report the benefits of using blue light glasses when using computers, smartphones and tablets to prevent eye strain, the fact is that there is currently insufficient science to support or refute their benefit,” Leiman said.
Personally, I sometimes use blue light glasses when I feel extra eye strain or need extra focus, and it’s usually a little easier to pay attention to my computer screen. But I have no idea if it actually helps my eyes feel less strained or if it’s just a placebo effect that helps me change my perspective slightly. Starr confirmed that it might be the latter, pointing to this study in the American Journal of Ophthalmology, which found no difference between those who wore placebo glasses and those who wore blue-light glasses.
But since blue light glasses are so cheap (I bought mine online a few years ago for under $15), it’s worth a try if you spend hours in front of the computer, just to see if it helps you at all. Prices: starting at around $9 at places like Walmart or Amazon, or you can read our review of the best blue light glasses.
Is using “dark mode” better for your eyes?
One of the biggest cheers from the audience at the Google I/O event this year came when the tech company announced that Bard, Google’s AI chatbot, was getting a dark mode. But is this really something to celebrate in terms of eye health?
That may depend on the brightness of the room you’re using the screen in, according to Layman. He said that “dark mode” may be better in a dimly lit room, but not completely dark, and that bright mode (black text on a white page, called “positive polarity”) is better in a normally lit room. Layman pointed to this 2013 study that showed positive polarity allows people to see details better.
Starr adds that using dark mode, or turning on “night mode” on your phone, has some benefits in terms of how easy it is for our eyes to adjust.
“The contrast and colors used in night mode reduce glare and are meant to help our eyes adjust more easily to ambient light, resulting in less eye strain and easy, comfortable reading,” he said.
Like the blue light glasses, you should try playing with dark mode where it’s available to see if it helps your eyes at all or makes them feel less strained.
Can screen time make poor vision worse?
When I went to the eye doctor last month for an eye exam, I asked my doctor this question and he said the exam wasn’t there to give a causal answer. Could be a chicken or egg scenario.
For example, myopic people may sit closer to their screens and potentially expose themselves to more eye strain or blue light, but this may not actively cause a worse prescription, but rather is based on the fact that they cannot see well and cannot to see must bring their face closer to the screen.
Star had a similar explanation. “There are some studies that show that close work activities like reading or using screens for hours and hours can lead to an increase in myopia, especially in children whose eyes are still growing,” he said. .
According to the AAO’s Information on Vision Development, research shows that children who spend an extra 40 minutes outside each day have a lower risk of developing nearsightedness or severe nearsightedness (a very strong prescription) compared to children who spend more spent a lot of time at home. or using computer devices or reading. The AAO adds that there isn’t a direct link, but that kids spending more time outside (and less time indoors looking at a screen) is good for their health.
Read more: Is your vision getting worse? It’s time for an eye exam
Tips to protect your eyes from technology
Whether or not staring at a screen all day is permanently damaging your vision, there are some easy steps you can take to make them feel more comfortable.
- Keep your phone “book reading distance” away from your face. This tip comes from Layman, who says it will reduce the focus demand on your eyes.
- Increase your font size. Another tip from Layman, improving your font size can also provide a more comfortable viewing experience.
- Follow the 20/20/20 rule. Starr and Layman recommend taking a 20-second break from the screen every 20 minutes by looking 20 feet away. “Blink, close your eyes and look 20 feet away during the break,” Starr said.
- Use pen and paper whenever possible. (Even if you feel ridiculous.) This advice is not backed by science, but it works for me (I’m very nearsighted and work in front of a computer all day). I use a physical notebook for the calendar because it’s a little relief for my eyes, which are usually glued to my laptop. I also use pen and paper if I’m writing something for fun and to take notes.
- Limit screens an hour or two before bed (and whenever you can). This bedtime rule comes from Starr. Limiting screen time before bed will not only help your eyes, but it can also help you feel less stressed and take a break from the day’s responsibilities. Learn more about how to cut down on phone time.
Both Layman and Starr stressed the importance of eye exams, which are usually recommended at least every two years, but more often if you wear glasses or contacts, or if you experience eye discomfort or pain. Your optometrist or eye doctor will be able to prescribe medicated drops or find other causes of eye discomfort besides screen time if you need it.
Read more: Get Instagram off your phone and thank me later