We’re addicted to our digital devices – phones, laptops, tablets and smart TVs.
We wake up every morning to the buzzing of a phone alarm and then proceed to check our daily schedule/ appointments/ reminders on it. We access our smartphones countless times a day to read the news, send messages, check the weather or sports scores, get work done, ask for directions, order food, pay bills, interact on social media and yes, to speak to people. When we do get off our phones, we’re on our laptops for work (even our kids do their homework on laptops or iPads these days). If we’re relaxing, it’s often by reading a book on your Kindle or binge watching a series on Netflix.
Studies show that most of us have developed a psychological dependence on our electronic devices borne out of the need to “stay connected” and always be in the know. The question arises: Can spending so much time on digital devices like our phones, tablets and computers damage our eyes?
The short answer: Yes.
Unfortunately, excessive screen time causes tired eyes and digital eye strain called ‘Computer Vision Syndrome’. And it’s on the rise. If you spend more than two hours a day looking at a screen, CVS probably affects you. Our eyes generally prefer to focus further than six metres away. Looking at a screen makes us focus much closer and makes our eyes work harder. The small font size and the blue light emitted from these digital devices add to the eye strain. We also blink far less when we’re concentrating on what’s on a screen in front of us, resulting in dry eyes that are not being lubricated enough.
Symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome
- Dry, watery, burning or red eyes
- Blurred vision, double vision or trouble focusing
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Light sensitivity
Quite often, CVS is an indicator of more serious eye health issues such as retinal and corneal damage, cataracts, glaucoma and myopia (nearsightedness/ shortsightedness). In fact, the incidence of myopia has increased by 35% since smartphones became widespread. We have become so accustomed to focusing up close on our devices that we are slowly losing the ability to see far away.
The best way to reduce the stress of these symptoms is to limit the time you spend on your mobile, tablet or laptop. Try setting a time limit. Of course, that’s easier said than done, especially for people who use computers for work/ study for hours each day.
How to keep CVS at bay
- Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take a break and focus on an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Put a reminder (on your phone if you have to!) until it becomes a habit.
- Adjust the glare and lighting: Avoid using screens in a room that’s too dark. Avoid the temptation of reading your Kindle in the dark as it makes your eyes work harder.
- Increase the font size: This is really helpful if you’re reading a document online as it can relieve the strain your eyes are under when focusing on a font that is too small.
- Blink-blink-blink: Make it a point to blink every few minutes to stop you from staring fixedly at the same screen for hours at a time.
- Do eye exercises: In the same way you exercise your limbs to relieve soreness, so too can you relax your eye muscles which get sore from staring at a screen for too long.
- Watch your posture and distance: Your computer screen needs to be at least 15-20 inches away from your eyes and make sure you’re not hunched over or staring down at it. Try not to hold your tablet or smartphone too close to your eyes.
If you think you might have CVS due to constant use of screens, please speak to our optometrists who can do a comprehensive eye test and evaluation. Call us on 9362 9944 or book an appointment online here.