by Fox Van Allen on January 10, 2014
According to a Survey Sample International poll, 70 percent of the U.S. reports some amount of digital eyestrain from using our electronics use that could develop into serious problems later on. Vision Council, an eye industry trade group, sponsored the poll.
As Americans, we spend so much time looking at screens these days. 60% of us report using devices for at least 6 hours per day in the survey, while 28% report using screens for 10 hours or more per day. According to eye doctors, that’s beginning to put our ocular health at risk.
“Eye care providers are noting a steady rise in the number of patients with screen-related eye strain, whose complaints include dry, irritated eyes; blurred vision; and head, neck and back pain,” the Vision Council report explains. Already, there has been a 35% increase in advancing myopia since smartphones were introduced in 1997. Exposure to high-energy visible light from your computers and smartphones is also thought to cause long-term problems like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
The good news is that protecting your eyes from strain couldn’t be easier – or cheaper. Dr. Joshua L. Dunaief recommends to NBC News that we need to avoid staring at our devices and remember to blink our eyes at least once every 10 seconds. “We don’t blink as much using screens because the blink response is suppressed,” Dunaief explains. “So we don’t spread tears across our eyes and they wind up drying out.”
Also, for every 20 minutes of using your computer, look into the distance for 20 seconds to allow your eyes a chance to refocus. And after two hours of continuous use, make sure you take a 15 minute break.
The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends screens be located 20 to 28 inches from your eyes during use, and about 15 to 20 degrees below eye level (4 to 5 inches). Wearing a pair of tinted glasses like the designed-for-computer-use Gunnar Optiks can also help. “Special lens designs, lens powers or lens tints or coatings may help to maximize visual abilities and comfort,” the AOA says.
Younger children should avoid illuminated screens entirely in their early development. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents “discourage screen media exposure” for children under 2.