Learn more about digital eye strain and other vision issues at Visualites
According to The Vision Council, an independent group of eye doctors comprised of optometrists and ophthalmologists, the average American now spends 7.5 hours in front of a screen every day. With this increase in digital device use many individuals suffer from symptoms of digital eye strain after screen use for longer than two hours at a time.
That tired and strained feeling your eyes have after spending a few hours of looking at a computer screen may be Digital Eye Strain, also known as Computer Vision Syndrome. This eye strain, eye irritation and associated headaches may be caused by looking at digital devices for as little as two hours a day, while these symptoms become intensified with the 7 plus hours many of us spend every day. Whether using a smart phone, tablet or laptop the range of symptoms that people experience can include some or all of the following:
- Tired and fatigued eyes
- Neck/shoulder/back pain
- Blurry vision / double vision
- Eye strain
- Eye discomfort
- Dry, itchy, and irritated eyes
Computer users may experience the effects of Computer Vision Syndrome differently. Some people may experience all the symptoms while others may only experience one. For instance, those who have a broader range of Computer Vision Syndrome / Digital Eye Strain symptoms may feel that their eyes are regularly and noticeably tired at the end of the day versus having those symptoms sporadically.
Digital Eye Strain Statistics from the Vision Council of the United States.
Americans report experiencing the following symptoms of digital eye strain:
- 32.4 percent report experiencing eye strain
- 27.2 percent report experiencing dry eyes
- 27.7 percent report experiencing headaches
- 27.9 percent report experiencing blurred vision
- 35 percent report experiencing neck and shoulder pain
So what exactly causes this strain on the eye when using digital devices?
The Role of Blue Light in Digital Eye Strain
With the increase in use of digital devices, computers, laptops, tablets and smart phones our eyes are being exposed to significantly more blue light than they are accustomed too. We use digital devices at work, for entertainment, to learn and more
What is Blue Light?
Digital devices emit an unnatural blue light. Blue light is a term that refers to high energy, visible light that occupies the upper end of the part of the light spectrum that we can see, very close to light in the UV spectrum. Light rays with longer wave lengths produce less energy whereas light rays with short wavelengths have more energy.
Rays on the red end of the visible light spectrum have longer wavelengths and, therefore, less energy. Rays on the blue end of the spectrum have shorter wavelengths and, yes, you guessed it, lots and lots of energy.
Color often is a function of which end of the light spectrum the wavelengths are found. For example, the color blue is associated with short wave lengths and higher energy, whereas red tends to have a longer wave length and carries less energy (to me this seems counter intuitive, since red is a more “exciting” color. When the wavelengths are at their shortest that is still visible, we call this violet or blue-violet light. Ultra violet is the description of light that has waves so short that they fall outside the range of our vision. Blue light flickers easier and longer than other types of weaker wavelengths and this flickering casts a glare that reduces your visual contrast, affecting clarity and sharpness.
In addition, as pointed out by this article in the Harvard Medical Review, the negative effects of blue light don’t stop there. Blue light also can interfere with the secretion of an important sleep-regulating hormone called melatonin. Digital screen time at night can make it harder to fall asleep and can also degrade the quality of our sleep. Some studies in animals have shown correlation between heavy blue light exposure and retinal damage. In some cases this can mimic an age-related condition known as macular degeneration. Since we protect our skin and eyes from UV radiation, it would make sense to have some protection from short wave blue light.
Our eyes have not evolved to provide filters against this type of artificial light. In addition to the symptoms listed, extended exposure to blue light may lead to macular cellular damage, which can lead to loss of vision. The health of the macula affects our capacity not only to read and drive a car, but also to pick out faces, watch TV and use a computer. In fact, macular healthy is necessary for almost visual task that requires us to focus on fine detail. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss among older Americans, and due to the aging of the U.S. population, the number of people affected by AMD is expected to increase significantly in the years ahead.
What Can You Do to Mitigate the Effects of Digital Eye Strain?
As reading glass specialists, we are intently interested in this topic. After all, much of your online activity does involve reading.
In our next post on this topic will outline practical tips for reducing exposure to blue light, but also to lessen the harmful effects of blue light. If you can’t wait until our next post to take action, check out our recently arrived blue light filtering computer reading glasses.
Digital Eye Strain is truly the vision issue of our generation – But you don’t have to be a victim of it.
Jerry Willis is the owner of Lumen Eyewear and the computer glasses and reading glasses brand Visualites. Jerry has years of experience in eyewear frame and lens design and manufacturing of eyewear and is a member of the Vision Council of the United States of America. Lumen Eyewear is also a FDA licensed manufacturer and importer of reading glasses and computer glasses. Visualites is dedicated to bringing its customers products that not only improve their vision but the health of their eyes.