Eye Health in the Digital Age: Does Too Much Screen Time Hurt Your Vision?
Living in the digital age does come with multiple perks such as immediate connection, instant communication, and remote working. While it certainly builds bridges where they’re needed, it also comes with some pitfalls, especially in terms of eye health. In a time when we’re spending most of our days looking at screens, whether working or leisuring, it’s impossible not to wonder: Does too much screen time actually hurt our vision?
Vision experts agree that limited screen time that is not followed by vision issues generally doesn’t cause permanent vision damage, but whether and how much screen time can be damaging to our vision is up for debate. In this article, we’ll explore the effects of excessive screen time, the health risks, and how they can be reduced.
What the research suggests
We are all aware that exposure to sources of bright light such as the sun isn’t good for our eyes. The sun produces ultraviolet (UV) rays, which are known to be some of the most damaging kinds of light. These lights, especially UVB rays, can cause serious damage to both eyes and skin. They can also lead to eye diseases such as cataracts and even cancer. While the lights emitted by newer electronic devices typically do not produce UV rays, they do, however, produce blue light.
According to research, exposure to blue light is often associated with eye strain, one of the most common eye conditions. An individual spending extended amounts of time in front of blue light-emitting devices may also experience troubles with focusing. Some researchers have also linked nighttime blue light exposure to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. There were also studies that suggested that exposure to blue light can damage retinal cells. Over a long period of time, the damaged retina can lead to macular degeneration, an eye disease that’s currently incurable.
The effects of excessive screen time
We already mentioned some short-term effects of excessive screen time such as eye strain and loss of focus flexibility. Other than these, too much screen time can also result in effects such as dry eyes, blurred vision, and headaches. These effects can be irritating and may even interfere with an individual’s ability to perform at work. Dry eyes, in particular, can cause annoyances and interfere with daily activities such as driving, watching TV, or reading. If untreated, conditions like these only worsen over time, resulting in severe discomfort and blurred vision. If you are concerned about this problem, you should visit your Solo Doctor.
In these cases, seeking proper treatment is essential. It’s also important to note that blurred or clouded vision may be symptoms of cataracts. While eyeglasses and strong lighting may help you deal with cataracts at first, if and when your usual activities start to be affected by the impaired vision, that is when getting cataract surgery is recommended. Other than being detrimental to eyes, excessive screen time can also lead to bad posture and interfere with circadian rhythm. This, in turn, can reduce both the quality and quantity of our sleep, thus affecting our overall health and wellness.
How concerned should you be?
Reading about screen-related vision problems can be unsettling, especially for someone whose job requires sitting in front of a screen. Even if your 9 to 5 doesn’t involve extended screen time, spending hours in front of the computer, smartphone, or tablet still puts you at risk of eye strain or eye damage.
That said, if you’re someone who uses screens for a few hours or less during the day, the likelihood of you experiencing vision-related issues that will result in serious problems is low. Overall, limiting screen time is recommended as it can help reduce risk of different health issues (insomnia, obesity, etc.).
What you can do about it
While the effects of extended screen use can be quite detrimental to our health, they can be avoided. One of the first things you’ll need to do if you want to improve your eye health is to make sure that you go for an eye exam regularly (once a year). When using screens, whether for work or entertainment, make sure to adjust lighting to the surrounding light. Relying on the 20-20-20 rule will help reduce eye strain, while using artificial tears will help prevent dry eyes.
If the screen is producing glare from light (natural or artificial), try to change the screen position to reduce it. You should also ensure proper posture and distance from the screen (25 inches) and consider using blue light filters.
Spending too much time in front of a screen, whether for work or entertainment, can lead to discomfort and damage. By paying attention to how and how much you use screens, you can minimize the risks and maintain good eyesight.