In an era where America has never been healthier, it is often surprising to read that digital eye strain is becoming an increasingly large problem among our population. This is especially true of young Americans, where rates of digital eye strain are as high as 65%.
At Eastern Virginia Eye Associates, we are not surprised by these statistics. With smartphones, laptops, televisions, tablets, and other digital devices becoming more common, it’s unsurprising that rates of eye strain associated with their use are increasing.
Good question! Eye strain is common, and almost everyone will experience it at least once in their lives. If you’ve ever sat down at a computer for a long-stretch, or gotten engrossed in a good book for a few hours, you probably know the feeling.
What makes digital eye strain unique is the medium: a backlit display is constantly bombarding your eye with light, including high-energy visible light (HEV light) that has been linked to a variety of potential problems (from interrupting our sleep patterns to causing physical damage to the retina). This intensifies and exacerbates eye strain symptoms.
Also sometimes referred to as “computer vision syndrome”, digital eye strain is an increasingly popular version of eye strain.
Causes – The primary cause of digital eye strain is focusing on a digital screen (think: phone, computer screen, etc.) for prolonged periods of time. The reason this is a problem is because our eyes, from an evolutionary perspective, are not meant to focus so intently at a single point for as long as we often make them when using these devices. In the history of humanity, the advent of digital displays is a recent invention.
Prolonged periods of focusing on a singular point fatigue our eye focusing muscles. Over time, this causes the symptoms associated with digital eye strain.
Symptoms – Symptoms vary from person to person in both frequency and severity. These symptoms tend to get worse the longer you use the device, though in most cases are temporary.
Symptom management – The best way to address digital eye strain is to address the root behaviors that cause it. Adapting how you use digital devices will go a long way in preventing the symptoms from occuring.
Eye drops and oral medications, including over the counter pain relievers and muscle relaxants, will help abate the symptoms temporarily. However, without behavioural changes, the symptoms are likely to recur.
20/20/20 rule – Simply put, every 20 minutes spend 20 seconds looking at something at least 20 feet away. This gives your eyes a few moments to relax and goes a long way in symptom relief.