Modern technology in the form of smartphones, tablets, laptop computers and even smart TVs has become a constant in the lives of most people, but eye-care experts are increasingly expressing worries about the damage that staring at screens for long periods may be doing.
With children and young people at greater risk due to their seeming dependence on their devices, many opticians in London are saying that the risks involved are particularly worrying especially in those who fail to schedule or attend regular eye examinations. Aside from headaches and neck strain caused by looking down at a monitor or screen for extended periods of time, the potential damage to eyesight is something that cannot be dismissed.
How does your screen hurt your eyes?
Whether you are staring at a smartphone, iPad or laptop screen you have a tendency to not blink. This reduced blinking means that you can develop dry eyes because it is the act of blinking which lubricates the eyeballs. Symptoms of dry eye include stinging, itchiness, redness, pain and grittiness and even blurred vision.
Experts also point to ‘blue light’ emitted by monitors which can cause not only vision problems but disturbed sleep and anxiety. Eye strain is a fairly low-level condition which can result from too much screen time and which has similar symptoms to dry eye plus difficulty focusing, wateriness and sensitivity to light.
You should not ignore either of these conditions nor indeed any changes to your vision that occur when using your devices because seemingly minor irritations can lead to more serious eye conditions. Regular eye examinations with your optician can help to spot problems developing with your eyesight which can be easily corrected particularly in the early stages.
How can you reduce the effects of screen time?
The first thing you can do is to reduce the amount of time you spend in front of your monitor or staring at your smartphone, as difficult as this may be. If you find it impossible to give up completely then at least make sure you get up, or put down the phone, and rest your eyes frequently for at least 10 minutes at a time.
If you are confined to your desk space, then try to focus on something as far as possible from your screen; looking out of the window for a couple of minutes is the perfect way to relax the eye muscles and reduce eye fatigue.
Use proper lighting to illuminate the screen and avoid the glare of direct sunlight. Attach an anti-glare screen to your tablet or computer screen to deflect reflections from exterior light sources. Consider an anti-glare and anti-reflection coating for your glasses to combat eye strain.
If you tend to leave your screen on in the bedroom at night this can interrupt your sleep. There are several apps you could download which transform the blue light of your smartphone or computer screen using crimson light, which is said to improve sleep and reduce the incidence of eye damage when looking at your screen in low light.
Adjust the settings of your screen or monitor, in particular, the color temperature to reduce the amount of blue light. The brightness of the screen should ideally be the same as your surroundings, neither too bright nor too dark and adjust print settings to a text size that is easy to read.
If using a monitor at your desk, make sure you are 20-24” away from the screen and that your workstation and chair are at a comfortable height.
Don’t ignore warning signs
If you are struggling with poor eyesight or eye irritation, schedule an eye test appointment with your optician as soon as possible. Getting help early is the key to ensuring good eye health later on.