Eye Health and Screen Time

By Dr. Manpreet Grewal 

Many of us spend much of our day looking at a computer, tablet, or phone screen, whether for work or entertainment.  

More than nine in 10 American adults surveyed — 93 percent — spend two hours or more per day in front of some sort of screen, from televisions to computers to smartphones to e-readers, according to a report by The Vision Council, an advocacy group for optical manufacturers and distributors. Sixty-one percent said they spend five or more hours and 30 percent said they look at screens more than nine hours per day. The group surveyed more than 9,700 U.S. adults. 

How does this affect our eyes? 

When we are focused on screens, our eyes blink less—half their normal rate–which means they dry out faster. When your eyes are dry, you may experience blurry vision, burning, or irritation. Your eyes may feel especially tired, heavy, or strained. These symptoms are occasionally referred to as “computer vision syndrome”.  

An abundance of screen time is not likely to cause permanent damage to your eyes, but there are some steps you can take to reduce the strain. One good rule of thumb is to practice the “20-20-20” rule. Every 20 minutes, take a break from the screen to look at an object at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Consider purchasing a matte screen filter to place over your computer screen. Use a humidifier or artificial tears if your eyes are dry.  

A study published in the American Academy of Opthamology’s journal last year points out that incidents of nearsightedness in the U.S. have increased by 42 percent since 1971. However, there is no conclusive evidence to show whether this increase is due to an increased exposure to screens, to light interacting with our circadian rhythms to influence our eye growth, or neither of these possibilities. 

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