Does digital technology impact vision health?

“If Your Kids Are Awake, They’re Probably Online,” goes the headline of a New York Times report on a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.  The study found that those ages 8 to 18 spent 7 ½ hours of their day using a computer, watching TV, playing video games or using some other electronic device.

The scary thing is: This study took place in 2008 – before the explosion in tablets and new-generation smartphones which, presumably, have added even more hours to our daily digital existence.

The headline is increasingly true for all of us. Not so long ago, vision health experts pinned a label – “Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS)” – on the cluster of eye health-related symptoms affecting office workers who spent hours at computer stations. Today those symptoms are affecting millions around the world, people of all ages who cannot imagine life without 24/7 access to texting and social media .

The symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome range from mild to disabling and include headaches; red, irritated eyes; blurred distant vision; diplopia (double vision);  dry eye syndrome; fatigue; eyestrain; neck and/or backache.

For those who work daily with computers, there are certain steps you can take to alleviate developing symptoms. Adopting good ergonomic practices for your desk setup is a smart thing to do. Make sure the computer screen top is below your eye level by about 15 to 20 degrees, and have any reference materials you need between the keyboard and the computer screen level, so you don’t need to move your head back and forth to view documents. Other tips include using anti-glare screens and improving lighting, seating position and height. There are many sources online for specific recommendations.

Whether or not you have a computer workstation, anyone who stares for long periods at a screen (which tends to suppress the blink reflex and cause dry eyes) should be aware of the importance of taking frequent “eye breaks” by looking away, into the distance. This can be especially challenging with children, who tend – as most parents are all too aware—to become somewhat obsessive with their digital entertainment.

In general, safeguarding your eyesight means taking care of your overall health with good sleep habits, a balanced diet and regular exercise.

  • Your eyes need time to rest and replenish the nutrient-rich fluids necessary for clear, sharp vision. That means getting good quality sleep – 8 hours if possible – every night.
  •  If you suffer from dry eyes, use saline eye drops throughout the day and, if necessary, an over-the-counter nighttime eye gel or ointment. If the problem is severe, consult your health-care practitioner. Dry eye syndrome can be quite painful and require medical intervention to prevent damage to the delicate surface tissues of the eye.
  •  A balanced diet containing lots of antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruits will help to ensure a healthy blood flow to eyes and brain. Be sure to get plenty of omega 3 fats (walnuts, olive oil, flaxseeds, avocados) and include at least two servings of fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sardines) in your weekly menu.
  • A daily eye health supplement can help you strengthen your eyesight naturally. Look for these ingredients: Vitamins A, C, E, B6 and B12; astaxanthin, Alpha Lipoic Acid, lutein, lycopene, vinpocetine, and zeaxanthin.

Sources:

Computer Vision Syndrome - American Optometric Association
“5 Important tips for better eye health in a digital world” – Mashable
Computer Vision Syndrome Q&A - Allaboutvision.com
“If Your Kids Are Awake, They’re Probably Online,” New York Times

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