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Is Living In A Digital World Ruining Our Vision?

iStock_000002652059SmallOur schoolchildren are now educated with laptops. We read books on electronic tablets instead of paper. Every workplace is equipped with computers. And we access our smart phones an average of 80 times a day. Is it any wonder vision problems are on the rise?

About 75% of the world’s population now has access to a mobile device, and for many of us, our life is in our phone. We check it for news, sports scores and weather. We constantly receive notifications through Facebook, Twitter, email or texts. We watch music videos, movies, and play video games from Angry Birds to Flappy Birds. We send messages to people halfway across the world and to the person in the next room. We consult our phones for notes, our daily calendar and GPS. We read work documents and memos. We scroll through Pinterest and Facebook feeds.

In short, you don’t own your phone; your phone owns you. We have developed a psychological dependence to electronic media because we must “stay connected” with other human beings.

Despite all this, Can spending time on your cell, computer or tablet for hours every day damage your eyes? The answer is simple: Yes!

Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is on the rise and affects up to 90% of people who spend at least 2 hours a day with their eyes glued to a screen, whether it’s a smart phone, tablet or computer. Symptoms include:

  • Eyestrain
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Dry, watery, burning or red eyes
  • Blurred vision, double vision or trouble focusing
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Light sensitivity

Assuming this condition is minor, merely annoying and will alleviate with rest can be dangerous. Occasionally, these symptoms are masking an underlying vision or medical problem, even one as serious as a brain tumor. Quite often, CVS is an indicator of further harm to come, such as:

  • Retinal and corneal damage
  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma (blindness)
  • Myopia (nearsightedness)

Nearsightedness has increased by 35% since smart phones were first introduced in 1997. We have become so accustomed to focusing up close that we are losing the ability to see far away. Our eyes’ natural focal point is 20 feet in front of the face, hence the 20/20 chart. However, we are only 2 feet or less away from our computer, tablet or phone. Digital screens are comprised of thousands of tiny pixels that are constantly moving. Our eyes cannot focus on these pixels and need to continually fluctuate away from them to our natural point of focus. This wears the eye muscles out to the point they can’t relax, creating the above symptoms of CVS.

Of course the easiest way to reduce the stress of these symptoms is to manage the time you spend on your smart phone, tablet or computer. Limit texting, internet browsing, book reading and game playing to a reasonable amount of time each day. For employees who work on computers or children who must do homework, this is not always possible. So we offer these tips for everyone:

  • 10-10-10 rule: Every 10 minutes, take a break and focus on an object 10 feet away for 10 seconds. You can alternate this with the 20-20-20 rule following the same guidelines.
  • Blinking can help tremendously – Simply blink every few minutes to avoid staring and focusing at the same screen for hours at a time.
  • Pay attention to the glare and lighting where you are reading or playing games. It is tempting to use your *Kindle or *Nook in the dark, but not advisable, as it makes your eyes work harder.
  • Increase the font size, which can relieve your eyes from focusing on words too small.
  • Eye exercises can relax your eye muscles which get sore being held in the same position too long, just like your shoulders or limbs do.
  • Pay attention to posture, seating and distance viewing. You should be looking at your screen directly across and at least 16 inches away, not hunched over or staring down at it.

Most importantly, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, seek out a comprehensive vision evaluation with a developmental optometrist to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other vision or medical problems. By looking into the eyes, we can identify many medical problems and refer you to the correct specialist. If you suffer from CVS, we offer light therapy which can relax the eyes and relieve eyestrain and stress, as well as improve many other symptoms. If your evaluation reveals further vision issues, we are trained in vision therapy to help exercise and strengthen your eyes, with a goal to achieve maximum vision capabilities.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, please contact us today. Let us bring you vision relief in this digital world which causes such extreme visual stress.