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Digital Eye Strains: Some Facts and Preventions

The increasing amount of time people, of all ages, are spending on technological devices at home, office or schools, has raised the risks of digital eye strain. While symptoms can be ephemeral, the condition can cause serious, occasional, discomfort for sufferers if they do not have not enough breaks.

Digital eye strain (DES), also known as computer vision syndrome, is a result of looking intensely at screens for more than two hours at a time, focusing and concentrating your eyes to read content or watch movies. And it is usually accompanied by problems such as eye redness, blurred or doubled vision, and eye dryness.

It also encompasses a range of ocular and visual symptoms, and estimates suggest its prevalence may be 50% or more among computer users. According to the United States’ National Center for Biotechnology Information, symptoms fall into two main categories: those linked to accommodative or binocular vision stress, and external symptoms linked to dry eye.

Global Digital 2019 reports reveals that internet users are growing by an average of more than one million new users every day, with all of the original ‘Next Billion Users’ now online. In 2019, there are 5.11 billion unique mobile users in the world today, up 100 million (2%) in the past year. 4.39 billion use Internet which is an increase rate of 366 million (9%) versus January 2018. 

3.48 billion people use social media, with the worldwide total growing of 288 million (9%) last year. 3.26 billion people use social media on mobile devices in January 2019, with growth of 297 million new users representing a year-on-year increase of more than 10%.

With so many of us spending time in front of digital devices every day, it’s no surprise that research is showing a rise in the detection of visual problems. Having uncorrected hyperopia or myopia, astigmatism or presbyopia can all make computer use less comfortable and efficient. Depending on the condition, eyes could be exerting extra effort or be forced to work harder to maintain a clear image when viewing the screen. Even people with perfect vision may experience symptoms such as blurred vision, eyestrain and headaches with prolonged computer use.

Dr. Patsaran Thanasupan, Managing Director of Banphaeo Hospital, said “Screens of digital devices can make more damage to the eyes than the brightness of the sun does. So you need to rest, take a break every 15-20 minutes when you use the digital devices, like blinking or going outside and see something the things that are really far from where you are or looking at the nature, like green plants and trees”.

She also claimed that eyes are one of the most important part of the body. They give you the power of sight, to witness things. So people need to be extra careful to not hurt or damage them. Once lost, the amount of time, money and burden one and his/her surroundings have to invest is not light. Eyes are not to be underestimated.

At least 1 out of every 4 eye patients complains about eye strain due to reading text on a small screen according to Jeff Taylor, M.D., Medical Director for YourSightMatters.com. Normally, people blink about 15 times per minute, but the rate decreases by half when they are staring at their smartphones. As we squint to read these miniature screens, our facial, neck and shoulder muscles tighten, eyes become fatigued and vision can be blurred or strained. This series of symptoms is known as Computer Vision Syndrome.

“My brother who is now a high school student usually uses his phone to play online games whenever he finishes his studies or tuitions” said an English Majored, university student. “Although our mother would try to console him about using phones would hurt his eyes, he was not the type to listen to anyone. Later on, the amount of time he spends using the phone increased too much that those around him would notice his eyes started to look different directions whenever he spaces out”.

She said when their mother took him to a doctor, the doctor claimed he needed to undergo surgery. “I was frustrated. Mom had to spend so much money in a day just because he did not obey her. However, I knew our mother would have even more complicated feelings: anger, worry, sad. And when I visited my brother in the hospital I saw many children, most of them even might be younger than my brother, waiting in a line for their eyes to get a checkup. Seeing this, I think people should know the limits or set the limits as to when they would use the digital devices or else it might break their self-discipline”.

Dos Don’ts

Keep the right amount of distance between eyes and phones/laptops. Get too close the screen.

Take a break every 15-20 minutes. Forget signs of eye strain.

Use the right amount of brightness. Use the digital devices in the dark with bright screen.

Blink. Concentrate on the screen without blinking.

Use artificial tears/eye drops. Avoid wearing sunglasses.

Eye exercise. Avoid eating vegetables and food that are good for the eyes.

Medical checkups if your eyes started to ache. Forget the doctors’ instructions.

Smartphones, tablets, computers, televisions and GPS devices all emit blue light and long exposure can lead to eye strain, eye fatigue and sleepiness. However, today’s screen with smart technologies are much better than before, it does have minimal impact on your eyes. It is now easy to exceed healthy levels of blue light, which are now able to adjust the brightness especially at night thanks to the modern technology. And it would also be exciting to stay tuned for the digital devices to be able to fully prevent the eye strains.

Portrait of Asian Businesswoman sitting and working hard on the table with front of computer desktop in workplace at late with serious action, Work hard and too late concept

Prevention is the main strategy for management of digital eye strain. According to Wiley Online Library, prevention involves: (1) ensuring an ergonomic work environment and practice (through patient education and the implementation of ergonomic workplace policies); and (2) visual examination and eye care to treat visual disorders. And last but not least, special consideration is needed for people at a high risk of digital eye strain such as computer workers and contact lens wearers.