There is widespread belief that use of personal electronic devices can cause damage to eyes. This article is an attempt to analyze possible harmful effects and give precautions to minimize those risks. Increased use of cellphones, iPads, digital readers, or personal computers has led many to speculate on cause and effect relationships for failing vision. The possible culprits are eye pathology, eyestrain, change of focus, and dry eye.
Unlike reading on paper, the digital screen adds flicker, glare, and stronger light energy. The focusing eye muscles must work for viewing close objects. There are many theories linking prolonged computer use and nearsighted vision. There is a worldwide epidemic of increased glasses. This may be caused by a large shift towards frequent near vision tasks including digital devices. Near vision tasks are a major cause of eyestrain because the eye muscles must work harder. The best way to relieve proximity eye strain is to have the right glasses for the computer distance.
Coatings on spectacles like antireflective and blue light filters work to minimize glare, flicker, and blue light. It is also possible to have ultraviolet and blue light filters in contact lenses.
Research science is showing a growing consensus that the specific frequency of light from computers in the blue range affects eye health issues. There is possible correlation with cataracts, macular degeneration, and dry eye. Blue light has benefits to boost alertness, memory, and cognitive functions. It regulates circadian rhythm—the body’s natural waking and sleep cycle. This occurs with sunlight, but the bombardment of blue light to the eyes with digital devices is relatively new. Studies within the last five years link blue light exposure past daylight hours with sleep disorders.
Long-term use of personal digital devices triggers another unwanted side effect to the eyes. Subconsciously, most people blink far less often on those devices. Without the eyelids wiping away and rejuvenating more good tears, dry spots appear on the surface. This can limit vision and make the eyes burn or feel gritty. An eye doctor can recommend remedies to counteract the dryness or regulate good tear chemistry.
The American Optometric Society recommends the following guideline to reduce unwanted effects of long-term computer usage:
- Follow the 20-20-20 rule. Take a 20-second break time from the screen every 20 minutes and looking at something 20 feet away.
- Reduce overhead light to minimize screen glare.
- Position yourself at arm’s distance away from the screen for proper viewing distance from the computer.
- Increase text size on devices to better define content on the screen.
- Use blue light filters and coatings on glasses to minimize blue light absorption and glare to the eyes.
Each person has different visual demands and underlying visual system characteristics. To insure and protect yourself from potentially harmful effects from computers screens or personal digital devices, it is best to have a professional consultation from an eye doctor. You may even sleep better.
Dr. Steve Belanger is the optometrist owner of Peak Vision in Dillon. He is a 1982 graduate of the Michigan College of Optometry with undergraduate work at Central Michigan University and Michigan State University. Dr. Belanger relocated from Toledo, Ohio to Dillon in 2015 and resides in Keystone full time. His hobbies are skiing, golfing, cycling, and guitar. Contact Dr. Belanger at (970) 468-6591 PeakVision1.com