The Eye And Digital Devices

Digital Devices Screen Time Leads To Eye Strain

The digital age is here and with it comes an increase in the amount of time adults and children spend looking, or working on, devices—a fact optometrists have stated is leading to enhanced eye strain. Peter McGuigan, optometrist and part owner of High River’s Spectrum Eye Care, said himself and optometrist Tannis Shakya are beginning to see more cases of digital eye strain in the practice.

According to a study from the Alberta Association of Optometrists, adults in Alberta spend on average 10.5 hours per day on devices, a time period that is leading to strain. McGuigan is quoted in a press release stating that as patients come into the local practice, they’re often surprised to learn their vision issues are caused by digital devices.

Nearly 70 per cent of Albertans experience discomfort from digital devices, the study suggested. Symptoms range from tired eyes, headaches, dry eyes, and blurred or double vision, it said. A person conducting normal activities often blinks 12 times per minute, McGuigan said. Add in a screen and the amount of times that individual blinks is reduced by half, he explained.

“We’re seeing more usage of devices, whether it’s smart phones, computers or tablets,” he said, noting another issue is excessive exposure to blue light from devices. “We’re ramping up into a digital age.”

Reduced blinking can lead to a delubrication or evaporation of tear film, McGuigan said. This can lead to dry eye—an issue that can create loss of optics and clarity—he added.

“When you are looking at the screen, we’re staring,” McGuigan said. “Our eye muscles are not moving a lot and therefore, we’re locking in our focusing and our muscles at one specific plane.”

Residents understand 20-20 vision, but he explained people should use the 20-20-20 rule when working on devices. Every 20 minutes, one should look 20 feet away for 20 seconds, McGuigan said. The blue light emitted from screens has the possibility of leading to such problems as cataract formation and macular degeneration over a lifetime of usage, he added.

Just as people protect their eyes with sunglasses outside, and their skin with sunscreen, people can protect their eyes from blue light using a blue light filter on glasses and contacts, McGuigan said. Vision problems caused by digital eye strain can be solved quite easily, he noted. While the 20-20-20 rule is important, so too is the positioning of devices.

However, the survey noted only 35 per cent of Albertans have their screen slightly below eye level and at arm’s reach. McGuigan told the Times it’s three or four inches below eye level. Residents are asked to consult with their local optometrist if they have any questions, he said. It’s recommended that school-age children, and seniors, have an annual eye examination, McGuigan said. He added infants are seen at six months old, and adults are asked to go every couple of years.


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