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Oregon Family Magazine

Protect Your Eyes in a Digital World

11/02/2015 ● By Sandy Kauten

What is Digital Eye Strain?

On average, more than nine in 10 adults (93.3 percent) spend more than two hours each day using a digital device, with more than six in 10 adults (60.8 percent) spending five or more hours on digital devices each day. Whether it's for work or play, using computers, smartphones, tablets and e-readers TV or video games, all that time can take a toll on the eyes and lead to digital eye strain.

Digital eye strain is the physical discomfort felt after two or more hours in front of a digital screen and is associated with the close to mid-range distance of digital screens, including desktop and laptop computers, tablets, e-readers and cell phones. On average, a person going through his or her daily routine blinks about 18 times per minute. However, spending significant amounts of time staring at a screen causes blink rates to reduce, resulting in dry, itchy or burning eyes.

Adults with computer-oriented jobs feel the strain most acutely. A 2014 study found that office workers who spend significant time in front of computer screens and experience eye strain undergo changes in tear fluid similar to people with dry eye disease, creating a physiological change.

Tools are available to help technology users alleviate the discomfort of digital eye strain, maintain vision health and prevent further eye discomfort. When used in tandem with practical "eye-gonomic" health tips, lenses tailored for digital screen use (computer eyewear) can reduce or even prevent digital eye strain.

How Do Digital Devices Impact Children?

Children today have grown up with technology always at their fingertips. It seems as if kids learn how to use a smartphone or tablet before they learn to walk. Whether it's playing the latest game or doing homework, technology permeates a child's life and does so at a young age.

Because this is a new phenomenon, not much is known about the long-term impact of computers or other digital gadgets on pediatric eyes. However, eye care providers have reported seeing an increase in cases of myopia, or nearsightedness. According to the National Eye Institute, more than 34 million Americans suffer with myopia, a number that is projected to rise to nearly 40 million by 2030.

Although there is no one specific cause for the increase, scientists point to a mix of genetic and environmental factors, including increasing near-range activities such as the use of digital devices, and decreasing exposure to natural light through outdoor activities. Digital eye strain can also affect children and teens, whose eyes may fatigue after long periods of use. Computers and smartphones are often tied to every facet of a young person's life—from school to socializing, there is little respite from the constant use of technology.

To ensure children's eyes are developing normally, parents should ensure their child receives comprehensive annual eye exams. An eye care provider can evaluate any symptoms or physical discomfort stemming from use of digital devices, and may suggest tools and tips to help children protect their eyes.

Many parents aren't heeding the warnings from medical professionals on the need to monitor digital device use among kids. One in four children uses digital devices for more than three hours a day. In fact, 15 percent of survey respondents report they don't limit their children's screen time at all. And while 22 percent of parents say they are very concerned about the potentially harmful impact of digital devices on developing eyes, 30 percent report not being concerned at all about this issue.

Digital devices are an easy — and often welcome — way for parents to distract their children, but it's important for adults to limit overexposure. Although limiting screen time is the best way to reduce or prevent digital eye strain, parents can also follow these tips to help their children develop good habits while using digital devices:

  • Consider investing in computer eyewear for your child to prevent digital eye strain and to block blue light exposure.
  • Encourage children to take breaks when using digital devices.
  • Make sure children don't put the screen too close to their eyes, especially for long periods of time.
  • If a child is doing schoolwork on a computer, set up the workspace properly. This includes having a chair that encourages correct posture, with both feet flat on the floor.

What Can You Do to Prevent Digital Eye Strain?

Just like people need different pairs of shoes for different occasions, there is also a need for different, specialized lenses to cater to varied vision needs. To accommodate how much lives have changed in the decade with digital devices, the optical industry has developed lens treatments that limit the amount of blue light penetrating eyes while also preventing vision fatigue caused by prolonged use of technology.

Computer eyewear is specially designed for optimizing vision when viewing content on screens and can be provided with or without a prescription. This eyewear can utilize different filters, lenses and materials tailored to lifestyle needs. Users experience more relaxation, sharper focus and reduced blurriness and pixilation, which can cause discomfort unless corrected. The lens designs allow adults and children's eyes to relax, adjusting to intermediate-distance objects and reducing glare during prolonged use of digital devices.

One of the most popular lens options is the anti-reflective, or AR, lens, which decreases reflection from overhead lighting to improve acuity and contrast. These specialized lenses can be combined with blue light-blocking capabilities. Blue light-blocking lenses selectively absorb harmful blue light, keeping it from entering through the cornea and reaching the back of the eye. These lenses are either infused with melanin or made to filter a specific range of blue light.

When examining the best options, consumers should take into consideration the amount of time spent in front of their computer, ambient lighting conditions, distance from their computer and the type of computer work being done. Consider if there are short bursts of computer work interspersed with meetings or other activities away from the desk. This will help determine between the need for lenses that offer a very wide, but shallow field of view (ideal for sustained computer work) and one that offers good computer vision but also lets you see clearly wherever you are inside the workplace.

Article Credit:  The Vision Council.  For more information about digital eye strain and HEV light, please visit

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