According to recent studies, the world is becoming more nearsighted as the years go by. Currently, about 42% of people in the United States have nearsightedness, meaning they can’t see far away very well. However, the number is increasing, and increased screen time could be one of the reasons why. Screen time is also linked to other problems with the eyes. However, there are ways to protect your eyes from damage with your digital devices.
The next time you make goals for going to sleep or for getting better health, you may want to add limiting screen time to that goal. Screen time is any time you spend looking at an electronic device. The most popular we are talking about are smart phones, tablets and televisions. There are countless studies that have been done about electronic devices, how they change the brain and how they impact development. Did you know that screen time may be hurting the tissues of your eyes as well?
Many—if not all—of the electronic devices used today emit light, and more specifically blue light. Blue light is not simply just a light that is blue, but it is blue because of the high energy wavelength it carries. Blue light lies very close to ultraviolet on the electromagnetic spectrum. UV rays harm the eyes, damage tissues, cause vision loss, cancer and disease. Blue light can do much of the same because it has a very short wavelength. That means it is a light with tons of energy, and it’s all hitting the cells of your eyes. Over time, if you have lots of blue light exposure due to electronic devices, you may be damaging the cells you need in your eyes to see.
One of the most common eye diseases is macular degeneration. This is vision loss over time that happens because the macula tissue of the eye is damaged. Your eye is full of liquid and blood vessels. In the back of the eye are all the tissues (such as the retina) that help you see. When light enters your eyes, it will go through all the layers of your eyes until it hits the retina tissue all the way at the back. That retina tissue has millions of light-sensitive cells that take in information and transport that information to your brain through the optic nerve.
With macular degeneration, the cells in the macula (or center part of your retina tissue) become damaged. Blue light exposure can damage the macula, or all those cells taking in information. Once those cells are damaged, they can’t be repaired. We know that blue light can damage your macula, which is why limiting blue light from electronics can help you save your vision.
Screen time isn’t just something that is a worry for children, but for adults as well. Now, more than ever, a common work day involves some time behind a phone or computer screen. In the digital age, that time behind digital devices is only going to increase. If you’ve ever noticed that those long hours behind a screen leave your eyes feeling tired, it’s not your mind tricking you. It’s likely digital eye strain. It’s one of the most common, but least known eye conditions. At least 50% of people using a computer each day end up with “computer vision syndrome”. This is eye discomfort that happens from prolonged time behind a screen. It can lead to dry eyes, headaches, migraines, vision damage, blurry vision, neck and shoulder pain and eye strain.
Right now, studies show that the average American worker spends about 7 hours a day on their computer. That’s for people working in the home too. The American Optometric Association recommends using the 20-20-20 rule to reduce digital eye strain during those hours in front of a screen. This tip includes taking a 20-second break to view something else 20 feet away every 20 minutes. Essentially you are giving your eyes a break by looking at something else besides a digital device.
Make sure you blink often or use rewetting drops when behind a screen all day. Take a few minutes here and there to get up, walk around and move your eyes about the room. Use good lighting when reading and looking at a screen so you’re not straining your eyes. Especially avoid electronic devices at night, as screen time has been proven to affect your sleep. Blue light found all around naturally helps your body to know when to sleep. When you are exposed to blue light too much from devices, it can continuously tell your body you’re not ready for sleep. Simply turn off the screens 30 minutes before bed and you can sleep restful once more.
It doesn’t look like the digital world is going to lose electronic devices anytime soon. That is why you have to be smart with your screen time and smart with how you use your devices. Limit your time spent on electronics as much as you can. Invest in glasses that are specifically made for computers or made to block out harmful UV and blue light rays. These only cost a couple of dollars and can save your vision.
The best way to stay ahead of issues like macular degeneration and other eye problems that can happen with screen time is to get eye exams. These should happen every 1-2 years. Because digital eye strain, macular degeneration, and overall eye issues are common, these are appointments you don’t want to miss out on. Call Peeper’s Optical today at (303) 223-040!