HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR EYES IN A DIGITAL WORLD
Dr. Amita Joshi, PhD
It’s official. We are spending more and more time in front of our screens. As covid ushered in work and school from home, online weddings, birthdays, baby showers, reunions, and almost all other forms of socialising, our reliance on connecting digitally.With the uncertainty of another Covid wave, the reality is that we will continue to rely on connecting online for much of our daily tasks.
A US survey shows that almost 44% of children spend more than 4 hours a day on digital screens. A similar pattern has been seen in adults as well. With increased screen time comes an increase in eye strain.
Negative effects of too much screen time
Binge-watching a web series on our mobiles, has become equivalent to our “me-time”. However entertaining these web series or movies are, screen exposure at night has a negative impact on our eyes and sleep patterns. The bright light that our devices emit suppress the production of melatonin, a sleep hormone, which results in disturbed sleep patterns. Poor sleep, in turn, negatively impacts nearly, if not every aspect of our health.
Simply put, our eyes aren’t built to read on screens. Blue light emitted from mobile or laptop screens have a short wavelength, and high energy, and is harmful for our eyes and retina. There’s growing medical evidence that continued over exposure to blue light may cause permanent eye damage, destroying cells in the center of the retina, and lead to vision loss. A recent study in Ireland revealed that people with screen time of more than three hours are at a higher risk of shortsightedness.
In addition to blue light, improper viewing angle, looking closely at the screen and screen glare may result in eye fatigue. This is known as digital eye strain (DES), which includes symptoms such as dry eyes, blurry vision, itchy eyes, sore neck and back, sensitivity to light and headache. There has been an increase of DES cases globally since the onset of the Covid pandemic.
Continued eye strain can result in permanent eye damage. However, it can be prevented through regular practice of these simple habits:
Tips to preserve your eyes in the era of digitalization:
- 20-20-20 rule - Give your eyes a break every 20 minutes and spend 20 seconds looking at something at least 20 feet away.
- Maintain a comfortable distance from digital screens
- Exaggerated blinking help relax your eyes, and prevent long-term vision problems
- Adjusting the screen brightness to a comfortable level can reduce blue light by 60-70%.
- Avoid using contact lenses, instead use glasses with anti-glare and blue light blocking lenses
- Keep yourself well hydrated.
- No screen time one hour before bed.
- For children, keep screen time limited. Try to engage them in some playful activity like drawing, board games, play dough, music etc.
Dr. Amita Joshi
Dr. Joshi is a Pharmaceutical formulation scientist with a keen interest in scientific communication. She has several peer-reviewed international publications, book chapters and patents to her credit and been a recipient of various research awards. Her areas of interest include lipid-based formulations, lymphatic delivery, medicated contact lenses and infectious diseases.
- Mccrann, S., Loughman, J., Butler, J. S., Paudel, N., & Flitcroft, D. I. (2021). Smartphone use as a possible risk factor for myopia. Clinical & experimental optometry, 104(1), 35–41.
- Yang, G. Y., Huang, L. H., Schmid, K. L., Li, C. G., Chen, J. Y., He, G. H., Liu, L., Ruan, Z. L., & Chen, W. Q. (2020). Associations Between Screen Exposure in Early Life and Myopia amongst Chinese Preschoolers. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(3), 1056.
- Wong, C. W., Tsai, A., Jonas, J. B., Ohno-Matsui, K., Chen, J., Ang, M., & Ting, D. (2021). Digital Screen Time During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Risk for a Further Myopia Boom? American journal of ophthalmology, 223, 333–337.
- World Health Organization. Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Advice for the Public. World Health Organization; 2020. Available from: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public