Computer Vision Syndrome, also referred to as Digital Eye Strain, describes a group of eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer, tablet, e-reader and cell phone use. Many individuals experience eye discomfort and vision problems when viewing digital screens for extended periods. The level of discomfort appears to increase with the amount of digital screen use.
As technology evolves, people grow more accustomed to a digital lifestyle—one that includes blue light exposure from devices such as smartphones, tablets, LED monitors and flatscreen TVs. According to American Optometric Association's 2015 American Eye-Q®survey, 62 percent of respondents spend five or more hours on their digital devices every day. The average American worker spends seven hours a day on the computer either in the office or working from home.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF DIGITAL EYE STRAIN?
- Red or irritated eyes
- Watery or dry eyes
- Blurred vision or double vision
- Eye fatigue
- Back, neck and shoulder pain
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling that you cannot keep your eyes open
WHAT IS CAUSING COMPUTER VISION SYNDROME OR DIGITAL EYE STRAIN?
Digital eye strain is not caused by one isolated event or behavior. Irritation and discomfort can be the result of many issues. Digital devices often feature small print and pixelated images that can be difficult to read and cause our eyes to strain in order to focus. We may also be using the devices improperly by holding them at the wrong angle or too far from our eyes. Reading digital devices without pausing to rest your eyes can cause fatigue and dryness. Blue light, also referred to as high-energy visible (HEV) light, is another cause of digital eye strain. It is emitted by digital devices and increases eye strain more so than other colors that have a longer wavelength. It may also contribute to vision problems such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Digital eye strain can also be exacerbated in adults who wear prescription eye wear. This is because the corrective lenses they wear are oftentimes not intended for viewing the mid-distance range of computers and electronics due to design of the lens, contain the wrong prescription or lack proper anti-glare. Poor lighting and being exposed to dry moving air from a fan, heating or air-conditioning system in an office or home office can also exacerbate this problem.
Sources of blue light The largest source of blue light is sunlight. In addition, there are many other sources:
- Fluorescent light
- CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs
- LED light
- Flat screen LED televisions
- Computer monitors, smart phones, and tablet screens
Digital screens expose your eyes to blue light. Blue light exposure you receive from screens is small compared to the amount of exposure from the sun. And yet, there is concern over the long-term effects of screen exposure because of the close proximity of the screens and the length of time spent looking at them. According to a recent NEI-funded study, children’s eyes absorb more blue light than adults from digital device screens.
More blue light, more problems All this is leading to an increase in the amount of eye strain. Eye care providers are finding an increase in patients experiencing eye strain and other effects of blue light exposure according to an AOA article published in 2016. They reported that researchers have found that the more chronic the exposure to blue-light-producing LED lights, the more free radicals in the eye, which further analysis associated with retinal injury. This may contribute to aging of the eye and age-related vision problems in younger patient groups. Two recent studies associate blue light exposure with sleep problems. A 2014 study in the journal Photochemistry and Photobiology found that just a week of increased exposure to blue light before bed cut sleep time by an average of 14 minutes. Reading on blue-lit e-reading devices before bed "prolongs the time it takes to fall asleep, delays the circadian clock, suppresses levels of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, reduces the amount and delays the timing of REM sleep, and reduces alertness the following morning," according to a January 2015 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It also found that reading on such devices, unsurprisingly, increases alertness and delays bedtime without changing when people wake in the morning. For years, researchers have studied the association between dysfunctional sleep-wake cycles and other health problems, such as diabetes and some forms of cancer.
COMBATING COMPUTER VISION SYNDROME OR DIGITAL EYE STRAIN
Wear blue light blocking lenses or blue blockers. Blue blockers reduce exposure to harmful blue light while still allowing beneficial blue-turquoise light to pass through. They used to be yellow, ugly, and not worth the laughter you would get from both friends and coworkers if you wore them regularly. Technology has changed! Today's blue blocking lenses are nearly clear and provide UV protection by effectively absorbing harmful UVA and UVB rays. You may know of some of the popular blue blockers designed for prescription lenses such as Essilor Prevencia, Claris bluDEFENSE, VSP's TechShield Blue or Shamir Blue Zero all of which Dr. Neff recommends at IFE Optical. Some lenses designed for task specific office work or digital wear such as the Eyezen+ lenses are made with blue blocking properties. Transitions adaptive lenses help protect against harmful blue light both indoors and out. Dr. Neff recommends adding a quality anti-reflective/anti-glare product to any lens.
Adjust the color of the light emitted from your phone. For example the iPhone's "Night Shift" function alters the colors of the phone's display to the warmer end of the color spectrum, so you're exposed to less blue light that way. Your iPhone screen can be set to go to Night Shift during the hours of 9:00pm to 7:00am or whatever time you choose. To do this yourself on an iPhone, you can go to Settings > Display & Brightness > Night Shift, and set the time you usually start getting ready for bed.
Wear anti-fatigue lenses designed for digital lifestyles. Lenses such as Eyezen+ and Unity Relieve are new and innovative lenses designed to address the issues affecting the modern digital device user and provide them with a more comfortable vision experience. They contain a small amount of accommodative relief to alleviate eyestrain caused by viewing devices such as tablets and smart phones for long periods of time. Additionally, these lenses contain embedded blue light protection. Lenses such as the Shamir InTouch and IFE Optical's house progressive lens are designed as an everyday progressive lens solution with enhanced visual comfort in the zone most utilized for handheld technology, patients will notice a quicker transition of add power in the intermediate zone.
Invest in occupational lenses. Presbyopic computer users no longer need to lift their head to see the computer clearly, as with progressive lens designs, or bend their neck to peer over the top of reading glasses. Wearers of occupational lenses can hold their head and neck in a natural comfortable position while enjoying perfect focus. Such lens designs as Shamir Computer is ideal for those patients working on a computer throughout the day, especially those working with multiple monitors. It is important to understand that computer lenses serve other occupations as well, because it provides clear vision for any task performed within 5ft. If working on near tasks and interacting with employees or presenting to groups fall within the patient's daily tasks, a lens like Shamir WorkSpace is the ideal solution. It is also the best occupational solution for those who are actively moving around their work place throughout the day and on and off a computer or other digital devices, providing clarity for those tasks performed within 10ft.
Adjust your screen. Regardless of what type of device you’re using, digital screens should always be directly in front of your face and slightly below eye level. This is especially important if you wear progressive lenses. Try increasing text size to help better define screen content and to make reading more comfortable for your eyes.
Adjust the brightness of your screen by checking the device’s control setting. Consider changing your background color from bright white to a cooler gray. For computers, extend your arm while seated in front of the computer monitor. The correct distance to be seated from the screen occurs when you can comfortably place your palm flat on the monitor, as though you were high-fiving the screen.
Follow 20-20-20 Rule. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away. Even short breaks make a huge difference.