A significant amount of our day is spent looking at screens. Smartphones, tablets, laptop and desktop computers, e-readers and gaming consoles are a huge part of our daily lives. We live in an increasingly digital world, and our eyes are still struggling to catch up to the amount of time spent on electronic devices.
The average amount of time Canadians spend on a digital device is 4.4 hours per day. That number is up from 3.9 hours in 2020. Almost 50% of Canadians say they check their phones every 30 minutes, with that number increasing to over 70% in the 15-25 year age group.
All that time spent on screens can be very hard on our eyes, with the majority of people experiencing symptoms of digital eye strain, also known as computer vision syndrome.
What is digital eye strain? It is defined as eye and vision related problems that occur as a result of prolonged usage of near digital devices such as phones and computers. Symptoms of digital eye strain can include headaches, blurry vision, irritation, double vision, tearing, dry eyes, and excessive blinking and squinting. It can also cause neck, back and shoulder pain.
The other reason digital devices can be hard on our eyes is because they emit artificial blue light. This can reduce contrast and cause eyestrain, as well as interrupt sleep patterns by suppressing melatonin secretion. Natural light from the sun also contains blue light, which regulates the body’s circadian rhythm, and helps boost alertness and elevate your mood. The artificial blue light from digital devices confuses the body’s way of regulating our sleep.
Here are ways to alleviate symptoms from digital eye strain:
- Remember the 20/20/20 rule to give your eyes a break. Every 20 minutes, focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- Blink! We blink an average of 12 times per minute and that number decreases to 5 times per minute when we’re on digital devices. This can lead to dry eyes. Ask your optometrist for a lubricating eye drop to help with these symptoms.
- Consider getting a pair of digital, anti-fatigue or computer glasses through your optometrist. These lenses are made with a small boost of near power to help relax your focussing system. They are mostly prescribed to the 25-40 year old age group, but are being prescribed more frequently today to a younger age group (15-24 years).
- Avoid using devices in the evening, especially 2-3 hours before bedtime.
- Consider a blue light protection coating on your lenses. It acts similarly to an anti- reflective coating, eliminating reflections from artificial light sources, with the added benefit of filtering out blue light.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of digital eye strain it’s important to see your optometrist for regular, comprehensive eye examinations. That way, you can discuss the best options for managing the eye strain and the best pair of glasses for your situation.