It is common for people who use digital devices such as smartphones, computers and tablets to experience digital eye strain, eye fatigue and computer vision syndrome (CVS).
Computer vision syndrome is a collection of eye and vision related problems which arise from computer use which can include eyestrain, blurry vision, dry eyes, light sensitivity, headaches and even shoulder, neck and back pain.
Viewing a computer or other digital devices can make the eyes work harder. Uncorrected or under corrected vision problems can contribute to CVS or digital eye strain syndrome. The distance to the screen and angles used are often different than those used for reading and writing. Even patients who wear eye glasses for daily use may find that they are not suitable for the use on a computer screen.
Computer vision syndrome is diagnosed during a routine comprehensive eye examination. Your optometrist at Stoney Creek Eye Care may ask you specific questions pertaining to your computer and digital device use to customize a task specific eyeglass prescription. It is important to know the specific distance to your screen which will allow the doctor to fine tune the prescription with the greatest accuracy.
Single vision computer lenses will give a wide viewing area focused at the distance you view your screen. If the screen is set at arms length or further, a computer progressive may be beneficial to have both the screen in focus as well as reading material that may be at a closer distance.
Blue Light and Digital Devices
Visible light is made up of different wavelengths of light – red , orange , yellow , green blue and violet. Beyond the red end of the spectrum is the invisible infra-red radiation and beyond the violet is the invisible ultraviolet radiation. The blue-violet end of the visible light spectrum is the higher energy visible light and it tends to scatter easier and is not as easy to focus.
Newer type digital displays tend to emit a significant amount of blue light and can contribute to eye strain when viewed for a prolonged period of time. There are specialized antiglare
coatings which can be applied to eyeglasses (prescription or non-prescription) which help block part of the blue-violet end of the spectrum and decrease visual strain and fatigue.
It is important to note that some blue light is still essential for good health. High energy visible light boosts alertness and mood and is important in maintaining our circadian rhythm which is the body’s natural internal clock. Too much blue light exposure at night (eg, using a tablet before bed) can disrupt the body’s internal clock by suppressing melatonin and potentially interfere with sleeping. The “night mode” available on some digital devices essentially reduces the blue light in the display in an attempt reduce the disruption to our circadian rhythm just before bedtime!
Helpful hints to reduce minimize Computer Vision Syndrome and Digital Eye Strain
- A comprehensive eye exam to uncover any minor prescription which may be a contributing factor. Customized computer or task specific glasses may be prescribed specifically for your individual needs.
- As noted above, specialized antiglare coatings on glasses including those which block part of the blue end of the spectrum may be beneficial and may be recommended by your optometrist
- Upgrade to a high resolution screen which reduces strain and fatigue. Lower resolution screens are harder on the eyes
- Posture. Make sure you are sitting in an appropriate chair with a desk that is ergonomically set up.
- Don’t forget to blink ! Research shows that we blink less frequently when we are staring at digital devices and this disrupts our tear film contributing to dry eyes which can include ocular stinging burning, fluctuating vision and even excess tearing.
- The 20 x4 or 20-20-20-20 rule ! Keep your screen at least 20 inches from your eyes and take a 20 second break every 20 minutes to look at something that is at least 20 feet away!