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There’s pretty much no escaping screens nowadays. Whether your job has you staring at a computer for several hours per day, or you’re on your smartphone 24/7, our eyes are always locked on our tech displays. It may come as a surprise to some that this constant exposure to blue light can cause strain and damage to our eyes, especially if you don’t take the necessary precautions to protect yourself. Dr. Ritesh Patel, an optometrist with the Ontario Association of Optometrists, breaks down how our tech screens may be hurting our eyes, and what we can do to prevent it.

The problem with blue light

The eyes are sensitive to a narrow band of light frequencies called the visible light spectrum. Blue light has the shortest wavelength of the visible light spectrum, and blue rays with the shortest wavelengths have the most energy. Our main source of blue light is sunlight, however the number of indoor man-made sources of blue light is on the rise. This includes fluorescent lighting, LED lighting, and display screens such as smart phones, tablets, computers, and flat screen TVs. Although they appear white, LEDs have a peak emission in the blue light range (400-490nm range), also causing eye strain.

How are computer screens hurting our eyes?

Staring at screens for hours at a time can put a real strain on your eyes, and with how prevalent computers are in a modern workplace, it’s no surprise that for many, eye health is in jeopardy. Research shows that between 50 per cent and 90 per cent of people who work at a computer screen have at least some symptoms of computer vision syndrome (CVS), which isn’t one specific condition but rather a heading used to classify eye problems caused by computer use.

There’s no proof that computer use causes any long-term damage to the eyes. But regular use can definitely lead to eye strain and discomfort.

    • You may notice:
    • Blurred vision
    • Double vision
    • Dry, red eyes
    • Eye irritation
    • Headaches
    • Neck or back pain

What can I do?

If you don’t do anything about them, it could affect more than your eyes. You could also have issues with your work performance. You need to give your eyes a break! Follow the 20-20-20 rule – look away from the screen every 20 minutes or so and look at something around 20 feet away for about 20 seconds. Blink often to keep your eyes moist. If they feel dry, try some eye drops.

Are smartphones hurting our eyes, too?

Yes, smartphones can cause eye strain. In fact, it’s predicted that 2 out of every 3 Americans will experience eye strain caused by excessive phone use. But don’t panic — taking the right steps today can drastically reduce the risk of having smartphone-related eye problems in the future.

What can I do?

  • Turn Down the Glare: Chances are, your smartphone’s brightness setting is way higher than necessary. Reducing the glare from your screen will make phone use easier on your eyes and can also help you conserve battery life. Simply access your phone’s settings and adjust the brightness to a lower, more comfortable level.
  • Adjust Your Text Size: If you have to squint to read on your phone, try making the default font larger so that your on-screen text will be bigger and easier to see.
  • Remember to Blink: It may sound strange, but reminding yourself to blink while using your smartphone can reduce the amount of strain you place on your eyes. By blinking more often, you’re helping your eyes retain moisture, repel irritants, and remain refreshed all day.