By Caitlin Spitzer
What’s a body part we use all the time but seldom think about? Our eyes. Eye health is often an overlooked yet vital part of our health. We live in a world where our eyes are glued to a screen for many hours a day, rarely looking away.
Although we may not think screens have an effect on our eyesight, they most certainly do. According to UAB Medicine, 80% of adults in the United States use a digital device more than two hours a day; 67% use more than two devices at the same time.
March is Workplace Eye Wellness Month. This year should especially focus on eye health with the uptick in digital work, with people now still doing all of their work online. We already know that being stuck to a screen consecutively for too long can have adverse effects, not just on your eyes but your whole body.
But speaking strictly about eyes, the reason screens are so bad for eyesight is because of something called blue light. Blue light creates a lot of energy that can be harmful to the eyes over time. Even in the short-term, you can develop something called digital eye strain. But in the long-term, early studies have shown that excessive blue light exposure can cause some sort of damage to the retina, the part of the eye that receives light and translates it. Although the proof isn’t all there, more studies are being conducted to find out if this may be the case.
The obvious solution is to stop using the screen so much. But, that is a classic case of easier said than done. And, in many cases, people might not have a choice as using the computer for hours at a time is necessary to get their job done. Is there anything then that can be done to mitigate the effects?
Well, blue-blocking glasses supposedly filter out blue light and are intended to help with the side effects of looking at a screen for too long. However, not enough research has been done to prove if they are actually effective or not.
But, there are other solutions. Taking frequent breaks is the best and easiest way to give your eyes a break, according to an article published in John Hopkins Medicine. The general rule of thumb is called the 20-20-20, so for every 20 minutes of screen time, you should look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This allows the eyes to relax and can help reduce strain caused by long-term exposure.
Obviously, it can be difficult to keep track of doing this for 20 minutes, but it’s a habit worth forming if you think you are experiencing negative side effects to screen usage.
For those that suffer from dry eyes, artificial tears are a good option to try. The distance you sit from your computer can make a difference. Sitting very close to your screen is going to be a lot harder on the eyes. Sitting an arm’s length away can help, as can pointing the screen slightly downward. Adjusting the screen brightness is another obvious issue as well. Adjust the brightness so that it is about the same as the light around or above you.