What are digital devices doing to our eyes?

With rapid advancements in technology, screen-time on digital devices is on the rise. So, what does this mean for our eyes? 

Spending time on digital screens can cause visual strain and fatigue as well as sore, stingy eyes. While digital screens are vital in today’s society for work purposes, social networking and for leisure, many of us struggle to comfortably look at a screen for extended periods of time, with an estimated 75-90% of people experiencing digital discomfort daily. This is surprising when the average adult spends more time looking at screens than sleeping! 

There are many health concerns that arise from increased screen time, including exposure to excessive blue light, disrupted sleep cycles, dry eyes, visual strain and fatigue, lack of concentration as well as an increase in obesity levels. 

Almost all screen devices emit blue-violet light. Some exposure to blue light is essential, especially during daylight hours in order to boost alertness, help memory and cognitive function as well as elevating mood. However, at night, blue-violet light suppresses melatonin which delays sleep onset, leading to an increase in sleep disorders, especially in young children.  Therefore, it is recommended that everyone should avoid looking at bright screens two to three hours before bedtime. 

Blue-violet light scatters more easily than other light which means it is more difficult to focus as it reduces contrast which contributes to digital eyestrain.  One way to minimise the harmful effects of blue-violet light is by wearing specialised glasses that are designed to filter out these harmful rays. This blue-light filter can be applied as an anti-reflection coating to almost any kind of prescription lenses, with options for those who do not normally need to wear glasses as well. While longitudinal studies are yet to be completed on the damaging effects of increased exposure to blue-violet light, it is thought that it can damage the light-sensitive cells in the retina which could lead to irreversible vision loss later in life, similar to macular degeneration.

Not only is the blue-violet light a concern, but when we focus on screens, we have a tendency to concentrate so hard that our blink rate decreases. This means our tears are not continually spread across the eye and evaporation occurs, leaving us with sore, stingy eyes. It is very difficult to train yourself to blink more often, as this is usually an involuntary response. Therefore, we recommend taking regular breaks. An easy rule to follow is 20-20-20. That is, every 20 minutes you should look at a non-digital object at least 20 feet (6 meters) away for 20 seconds. Lubricating eyedrops can also be very beneficial and soothing for the eyes which your Optometrist will be able to recommend. 

Therefore, if you are spending multiple hours on digital devices daily, or experience visual fatigue and discomfort, book in to see one of our Optometrists to discuss the best options to protect your eyes in the long term.