Eye Health and Screen Time
Disclaimer: This content has been produced purely for informational and educational purposes only and is never intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical guidelines including diagnosis, advice, and treatment.
Vision is a blessing for every human being but in recent times the excessive use of digital devices has been affecting it negatively. Children, adults, and the elderly all are spending a considerable amount of their time on smartphones, tablets, and laptops.
The glare of the screen and the viewing angle doesn’t only cause strain on your eyes but can also affect your eyesight and lead to other eye problems.
Following is a detail of the different effects of increased screen time on your eye health and tips that you can follow to protect your eyes while using digital devices.
EFFECTS OF EXCESSIVE SCREEN TIME ON EYES
Looking at the screen for a long time requires your eyes to work harder than usual. Initially, it may cause eye strain which can be reversed by giving your eyes some rest but later on it can cause multiple issues including poor eyesight and damage to the retina.
Below is a description of some common eye problems caused by excessive screen time:
Eye fatigue or asthenopia is a condition caused by prolonged focus of eyes on a single object. When you stare at the screen for too long your eye muscles get tired.
This can lead to eye pain or discomfort, dimness of vision, double vision, and headache, especially around the eyes. Eye fatigue can also cause concentration difficulties and you may begin to lose interest in different tasks.
When you look at the screen for an extended period of time you temporarily lose the ability of your eyes to focus on objects. This condition is called accommodation spasm and can cause blurring of vision when you look away from the screen.
LOSS OF FOCUS FLEXIBILITY
The focus flexibility of your eyes enables you to look and focus on objects present at different distances. This focus is naturally diminished as you grow older.
However, in today’s era, the excessive use of digital devices is causing the loss of focus flexibility in younger individuals including children.
DRY AND IRRITABLE EYES
Your eyes naturally produce tear film which functions to keep your eyes moist. It also washes away dirt and other foreign particles that can cause damage to your eyes.
When you keep your eyes focused on the screen then you tend to blink less. As your eyes stay open for a longer duration the tear film begins to evaporate and your eyes become dry and irritable.
This effect is more pronounced when you look at the screen placed above the level of your eyes. When you look upward towards a screen for an extended period of time then your upper eyelids are widely open. This facilitates the evaporation of tear film at a faster rate and makes your eyes dry.
Dry eyes can cause blurring of vision and also when your eyes become dry and tear film is unable to wash out dirt and foreign particles then your eyes become more vulnerable to eye infections and other problems.
People who spend more time looking at the screen are less likely to indulge in outdoor activities. This might not be a problem in adults but it can significantly affect children.
The children need exposure to natural light for the optimal development of their eyes. When they spend most of their time inside the house gazing at the screen and do not go out often in natural light then they are more likely to develop nearsightedness which is also known as myopia.
Smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other digital devices all emit blue light which can reach the innermost layer of your eyes i.e. the retina. This blue light then damages light-sensitive cells present in the retina and causes early-onset age-related macular degeneration.
If not managed timely then retinal damage may also lead to visual loss.
Apart from your eyes excessive screen time also affects your sleep. The blue light emitted by the screen can alter the brain's sleep rhythms and cause sleep disturbances. People who spend more time gazing at the screen are also prone to obesity due to a lack of physical activity.
TIPS TO PROTECT YOUR EYES
In this age of digitization, it is difficult to bring screen time to zero. However, you can follow the below-mentioned tips to protect your eyes from the negative effects caused by excessive screen time.
FOLLOW 20-20-20 RULE
Gazing at an object for too long can put a strain on your eyes and blur your focus. To avoid this effect, follow the 20-20-20 rule which recommends that you look away from the screen every 20 minutes and focus on something that is at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Additionally, you can also take a 10-minute break every hour. This will allow your eyes to relax and enable you to focus on your work without putting strain on your eyes.
Adjusting the light of the screen according to the light of your surroundings makes it less stressful for the eyes. To do so you can adjust the brightness of your mobile phone, computer, or laptop in a way that is not brighter than the surrounding light.
Increasing the contrast on your screen can also help to reduce eye strain when working for a longer duration on a digital device.
KEEP THE SCREEN AT A DISTANCE
Your eyes have to work harder when the screen is positioned close to them. It is recommended that the screen must be at least an arm's length away from your eyes.
You can also follow the 1-2-10 rule according to which there should be a distance of at least 1 foot between your eyes and your mobile phone, a distance of 2 feet between the computer and eyes, and a distance of 10 feet between the television screen and your eyes.
It is also important to position the screen in a way that you don’t have to look upward towards the screen. Because when you look upward, you need to keep your eyes widely open which may cause the tear film to dry quickly leading to dryness in the eyes.
The reflection on a screen can make it further difficult for your eyes to function properly. Therefore, it is advised to keep your computers and laptops in a place where no other light shines on them directly.
DO NOT FORGET TO BLINK
Blinking is a protective mechanism for your eyes. When you blink the tear film is evenly distributed all over the surface of the eye. Blinking also prevents your eyes from drying out by reducing the rate of evaporation of tear film.
Gazing at a screen for a long time reduces the blinking rate by half. This can lead to dry and irritated eyes. Hence, it is recommended to blink after regular intervals while using mobile phones and computers.
You can also use artificial tears to keep your eyes moist and prevent them from drying out.
GET YOUR EYES CHECKED ANNUALLY
Even if you have normal vision, it is important to get a yearly eye exam to screen for vision problems. It can diagnose different conditions at an early stage and impact the treatment outcomes positively.
If you have continuous headaches, dry and irritable eyes, and eye pain then you should schedule a comprehensive eye exam with your ophthalmologist. A comprehensive eye exam will not only assess the ability of the eyes to focus on objects but also their structure and overall health.
This will enable your ophthalmologist to see if there is any chronic disease in development or any underlying problem that might manifest itself in times of high stress.
Every man-made technology has its pros and cons. Mobile phones, computers, laptops, and television might have made our work easier but they have also impacted our health significantly.
People who spend most of their day working on a computer or a mobile phone lead a sedentary lifestyle. As a result, they are prone to obesity and its complication like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Spending too much time in front of a computer or mobile phone screen also damages our eyes.
Excessive screen time can initially cause eye fatigue or asthenopia but later on, it can lead to dry and irritable eyes, blurred vision, poor eyesight, and retinal damage.
To protect your eyes against the harmful effects of too much screen time you should bring some changes in your way of looking at the screen. You can follow the 20-20-20 and 1-2-10 rules, adjust the lighting of the screen and room, eliminate glare, maintain a distance between the screen and yourself and get a yearly eye exam. These tips will help you prevent different eye problems associated with excessive screen time.