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According to UAB Medicine, about 80% of Americans use digital devices for more than two hours a day, and about 60% experience some type of digital eye strain. As people become more reliant on digital device usage, it is important to understand what effect this could be having on your eyesight.

Here is a rundown on screen use, how it can affect your vision and preventative measures to take:

Screen Use

Whether your screen use comes primarily from a desktop computer, laptop, television or some type of mobile device, your eyes are naturally strained from trying to keep up with the movement on your screen. If your screen use is more limited, looking away from your screen every 10-15 minutes would help decrease your eye strain.

The most common cause of concern from too much time looking at screens are the effects of blue light. Blue light is a type of wavelength that is less disruptive during the daytime where your cortisol levels are higher. However, too much blue light, especially at night, can damage your retinal cells and interfere with your quality of sleep.

There has not been sufficient long term research conducted that states blue light from digital devices causes any harm to your eyes, but that doesn’t mean there are no side effects. COVID-19 and the rise of companies switching to all online could have an impact on vision loss, but there is no evidence of that currently, so you don’t have to swear off screen use just yet.

Possible Side Effects

While there is no concrete evidence that screens cause vision loss, extended periods of screen activity could cause eye strain and irritation that can create other issues as well. Here are some of the possible side effects of uninterrupted screen use:

  • Headaches and migraines
  • Retinal damage
  • Dry eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Lack of focus

In addition to these side effects, screen use close to bedtime can have lasting effects on your overall health. Blue light emitted from screens disrupts your body's natural circadian rhythm, which can have lasting effects if your screen time primarily occurs before sleeping. According to Harvard Health Publishing, research has linked shorter or disrupted sleep to an increased risk for depression, diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

Nearsightedness has also been identified as a possible side effect of extended screen time, especially in children. Children’s developing eyes need natural light to help strengthen their eyes and looking at screens indoors all day can affect that process.

Prevention

The most common side effects of extended periods of screen time are eye strain and headaches, but with these simple preventative measures, your eyes can stay refreshed and alert.

  • The 20-20-20 Rule: Taking a break from staring at your screen every 20 minutes by looking at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds is a quick and easy way to help reduce eye strain. This allows your eyes to be able to refocus for more productive work.
  • Distance: There are many studies that show how to properly sit at a computer. By keeping your screen at about an arm’s length away, your eyes won’t work as hard and will reduce the strain on your eyes.
  • Eye Drops: Dry eyes is a common effect of extended screen time because people blink less when staring at a screen. Using eye drops will create moisture in your eyes to relieve any irritation or discomfort.
  • Blue Light Filtering: As previously pointed out, the blue light emitted from screens can cause lasting effects, so using a blue light filter on your phone or laptop is a simple way to decrease the amount of blue light exposed. Blue light glasses are also a useful and stylish way to block the harm of blue light.
  • Eye Exams: Scheduling routine eye exams is important for everyone, but it is equally beneficial for those who spend lots of time on screens. Your doctor can help decide what other preventative measures you might need to take if you have to use computers or mobile devices almost exclusively for work or school.
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A portion of your purchase is donated to the Anath Foundation to help families on their cancer journey. Learn more about the impact of your purchase!

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