Screens, screens, and more screens

Is there dangerous radiation coming from the phones and computers that we use?  NO. This is a common thought and question that comes up a lot in my practice. Mysterious dangers associated with technology are usually more compelling than the truth. The truth is that electronic screens do not damage the eyes by anything that comes off of the screen. Computer screens and phone screens can cause eyestrain.

Eye Strain is a common part of life today. Computer, phone, TV, and all the digital media is a huge part of our daily eye use.  Many people have been told that too much use will permanently damage their eyes.  Again, this is totally false.  Digital screens do not send damaging rays to the eyes.  However, the screens do cause temporary discomfort to the eye and make some eye conditions worse.  This happens when the eye gets dry from blinking less while using digital devices.  This is called digital eye strain.

When people say that their eyes are tired what they really mean is that their eyes are dry.  When you do any activity with the eyes that requires close attention, your blink reflex slows down to allow you to concentrate on the image that you are looking at.  Normally, you may blink 15 times in a minute when you are walking around but when you are sitting at the computer you ay only blink 5 times in a minute.  Each blink spreads wetness and tears over the eye like a windshield wiper.  With less blinking the eye surface does have a smooth even clear surface.  The surface becomes uneven like the rain on the windshield when there is no wiper.  This causes blurriness and discomfort in the eyes. Dry eye is the cause of digital eye strain.

The key to preventing computer and digital eye strain is to develop good habits when using your devices.  20-20-20 is an easy way to remember to refocus and lubricate your eyes while using digital devices.  Every 20 minutes that you are on a digital device, stop for 20 seconds and look across the room at an object that is 20 feet away.  This will also remind you to be aware of blinking at a normal pace.  

Clearer vision will enable you to blink more.  If it is difficult to see then you will tend to blink less often and then get dry eye.  Therefore, do everything you can to maximize your visual clarity.  If your doctor says you need glasses, wear the glasses. People often ask for computer glasses. There are 2 different types of computer glasses. There are computer glasses that are made to focus your eyes to the distance of where a computer would be from your eyes. There are also computer glasses that are blue light blocking glasses. Computer glasses can also put both of these types of glasses together. 

Blue light blocking glasses are designed to block blue light. Digital devices send blue light into our eyes when we use them and the blue light sends signal to our body and brain that it is daytime. Blue light is similar to daylight. So the blue light tricks our bodies at night when we use the computer and phone to think it is daytime. Our bodies have rhythms to prepare ourselves for different things that we do. One of these is sleeping. The blue light can disturb this rhythm when our bodies think it is daytime when it is actually night. Without a good deep sleep, your body can not restore, build and repair properly. So, the blue light blocking glasses are designed to help you get better sleep. Better sleep also helps your eyes restore the natural wetness and repair damage done by dryness in the eyes done during the day. 

The other type of computer glasses is designed to give you clear vision when looking at the computer. These are prescription glasses that focus the eyes to the distance of a computer screen. Seeing clear on the computer, will help prevent your eyes from drying out. Clearer vision allows more blinking which means less dryness. The eye also sees clearer when there is contrast (black writing on white paper is great contrast and has been great for the eyes for centuries but much of our digital world is low contrast like grey writing on blue background).  So adjust your screens for greater contrast and avoid glare from lights shining on the screen which lowers the contrast.

People who are on screens for an extended period of time like gamers, social media users, and work-related users are the ones who are at greatest risk of eye strain. Theses 3 groups together make up a huge population, so if you are in one or more of these groups, you are not alone in the battle against digital eye strain. The tools to fight it and simple and require small changes to your habits and use.

Key point:

Gamers: To protect your eyes during gaming.
Social media Users: To protect your eyes during phone use.
Computer users: To protect your eyes during computer use.

Same answer for all is to avoid eyestrain by preventing the eyes from drying out.