We live in a time when nearly all of the information we take in on a daily basis is through a video screen. We spend 8+ hours on a computer at work every day, watch our favorite primetime shows on a television, and we check emails, make phone calls, video calls and play games on smart phones. Needless to say, the eyes of today are looking at a totally different picture than the generations before us.
Although using technology on a daily basis has certainly made life more convenient, it could be taking quite the toll on our visual health. Excessive use of technology like the iPhone and other handheld devices can lead to persistent eye strain and other vision conditions. In fact, as many as 100 million people in the US suffer from eye strain, a condition which occurs when the eyes get tired from intense use. This can occur when driving for long periods of time or, you guessed it, when reading or working on a computer. Other conditions that can be caused by daily use of smart phones, e-readers and computers include dry eye, blurred vision, eye twitching, discomfort and even headaches. According to a study published in the July 2011 issue of Optometry and Vision Science, as many as 90 percent of people who use computers experience eye problems.
Despite the fact that using these computers and portable devices can have a negative effect on visual clarity, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who was willing to give up the convenience of these amenities for the sake of clear vision. So if giving up being “plugged in” isn’t the answer, then what is? Luckily, there are several things that individuals can do in order to minimize their eye strain, or treat eyestrain when it does occur. One of the simplest solutions to the issue is increasing the font size on all of your devices. Many ophthalmologists recommend using at least a 12pt font on your computer, and magnifying text on your smart phones and e-Readers.
Another good practice is to rest the eyes after every 30 minutes of consistent computer use. Simply looking at an object at a distance for 30 seconds can ease the strain on the eye. Individuals are also advised to keep all reading material below eye level, and to keep the eyes moisturized- using over the counter eye drops when necessary. Visiting an ophthalmologist to monitor your overall eye health at least every 6 months is important as well. Many individuals who do not wear eyeglasses or contacts neglect ophthalmology appointments because they don’t think they are necessary. Quite the contrary, when it comes to eye health frequent monitoring is essential.
And finally, the most obvious – but possibly the most difficult – solution to reducing eye strain is to unplug and unwind. Reducing your smart phone and computer usage even just a little bit can have a big impact on keeping your eyes healthy. Not to mention helping you de-stress overall and tune in to family and friends, rather than your screen.