What Is Blue Light/Computer Vision Syndrome?
Digital eye strain, also known as “Computer Vision Syndrome”, is a relatively unknown vision-related problem that many people suffer from due to prolonged computer, iPad, e-reader, and cellphone screen time. The eyes are most comfortable focusing on distance objects (10-20 ft away or more). When the eyes are forced to focus for long periods of time at much closer distances (typically 16-24 inches) on computer screens or any printed material, the eye muscles that control focusing get fatigued and strained – similar to how any other muscle in our body can get strained from over-use. Digital eye strain symptoms can include: blurry vision, double vision, eyestrain, headaches, difficulty concentrating or focusing, red/sore/tired eyes, and dry eyes.
Additionally, most computer screens, tablets, and cell phones emit blue light. Blue light is a very high energy wavelength of light, similar to UV radiation. While we get most of our UV and blue light from the sun, significant indoor sources of man-made blue light include fluorescent/LED lighting, computer screens, cellphones, iPads, flat screen TVs, and other digital devices. In the modern world, the average person tends to spend a large amount of time on these indoor devices, often in close proximity to a person’s face – because of this, many health care professionals are concerned about the possible long-term effects of blue light on eye health. Prolonged exposure to blue light has been shown to damage the retina, the crystalline lens inside the eye, and other ocular tissues – this exposure can contribute to the development of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
How To minimize the symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome and Blue Light Exposure:
Get a yearly eye exam and follow your doctor’s advice on prescription lenses.
Many people have mild vision problems that do not require everyday correction with glasses for driving, reading, or other activities – but can benefit from computer vision glasses to reduce visual stress at work from prolonged focus on the computer.
Make sure you let your eye doctor know the visual demands of your job.
Glasses for distance, reading, or both may not provide the appropriate focus for a computer screen, which is often 20-30 inches from your eyes. Measure the distance between your computer screen and your eyes, and let your eye doctor know what tasks you need to perform visually at work. This information will help your doctor work with you to come up with the best solution for your work-related visual needs.
Minimize blue light exposure and glare coming off your computer screen.
Blue light from monitors, tablets, and mobile devices can negatively affect your vision over the long term. Ask your doctor about specialty lens coatings that can reduce the harmful impact of blue light and disabling glare off the surface of your lenses and computer – both blue light and glare can contribute to eyestrain and computer vision syndrome. Consider a glare reduction filter for your computer screen, along with positioning your monitor so that it does not catch reflections from windows/artificial lighting/etc. Some devices have display settings that can be adjusted to reduce blue light.
Ensure the proper ergonomic set up for your work space.
When on the computer, do not set your monitor too high so that you are staring straight into the middle of the screen – this is a common mistake. Ergonomically, it is best to have your computer monitor positioned at least 24 inches away from you, viewing the screen in a natural neck posture with a slightly downward gaze.
Take rest breaks from near focus at regular intervals.
Remember the “20/20 Rule”: Every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break from the computer/near focus and adjust your gaze to a distance object at least 20 feet away (or more).
Minimize dry eye from prolonged screen focus.
When the eyes focus for long periods of time, our blink rate has a tendency to slow down. Consequently, as we stare at the screen all day, the surface tissue of the eye will dry out. Take care to blink full complete blinks so that the eyelid completely spreads your tear film from the top to bottom of your eye surface. Use artificial tears or lubricant eye drops (do *not* use redness relieving eye drops) every 1 hour to supplement the tear film. Avoid wind/fans/vents blowing directly into the face which will also dry out the eyes.