Remember being yelled at as a kid for sitting too close to the television? Our well-meaning parents would warn us of the harmful waves coming off the screen and the irreversible damage they would inflict on our poor, defenseless eyes if we were to watch too closely. If you had especially creative parents, you might have been warned of the possibility of radiation-induced mutations, maybe growing an extra limb or losing your hair. (Thanks, Mom and Dad.)
Well, it looks as though the iPad has joined the ranks of the television. Do a search on tablet screens and eye health and you will find a lot of talk on the subject. While there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on the long-term effects of screen exposure on our eye sight, most experts agree there are steps you can take to avoid screen-related eye problems.
Computer Vision Syndrome
Computer vision syndrome seems to be the most popular term being used to describe the eye and vision problems associated with prolonged computer/screen usage. Symptoms can include:
- Dry eyes
- Blurred vision
- Neck and shoulder pain
There are several factors at work with this syndrome:
- Improper viewing distance (can you hear your parents saying “I told you so!”?). Our eye muscles have to work harder to focus on objects close up, and unfortunately, most of us hold our tablet and smartphones at less-than-arm’s length away.
- Pixilated images, which cause our eyes to shift in and out of focus, thus ultimately weakening our focusing muscles.
- Poor lighting/glare. Our screens are typically brighter than our surroundings. As we shift between the two, our pupils contract, dilate, and contract again.
- Uncorrected vision problems.
- A combination of these factors.
What You Can Do
The next time you sit down for some prolonged screen time, try to implement the following tips:
- Blink more! The normal blink rate is a few times every few seconds; however, when staring at a screen, that rate drops to only a few blinks per minute. Blinking more will help combat dry eye and irritation.
- Make sure you are in a well-lit room or that your screen’s brightness level is appropriately adjusted.
- The 20/20/20 rule: To allow your eyes to refocus, every 20 minutes look 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- For desktop computer users, keep the monitor at arm’s length and the top at eye-level. A downward gaze is easier on the eyes.
Don’t forget to tell your eye doctor if you are a heavy screen user. There are special prescription glasses for digital devices that assist in lowering eye strain.
Oh, and we can’t forget Mom and Dad’s favorite tip: “Eat your carrots! They’re good for your eyes!” Turns out they were actually kinda right about that one. Thanks, Mom and Dad.