Almost everybody is attached to a phone, laptop or tablet these days. And while it’s great to have everything instantly at your fingertips, our attachment to these screens is literally killing us. One of the biggest issues is how excessive screen time is detrimental to your vision. It’s not just tired eyes and eye strain. There can be much worse manifestations from using these devices every single day. Check it out.
Blue Light Exposure
Because blue light is a short wavelength, it has more energy and flickers more easily than longer, weaker wavelengths. While not superficially noticeable, blue light creates glare, reduces visual contrast, affects vision acuity and causes general eyestrain, headaches and fatigue. The damaging effects of blue light are more serious in low light conditions when the pupil is enlarged and takes in more light. Consequently, the retina receives a larger dose of blue light.
Electronic LED-lit screens emit short wavelength blue light that passes through the eye’s initial filter (the lens) and passes directly to the back of the eye to the retina and macula. Even exposures as short as one hour can cause free radical generation, cell death, and accelerated cell aging. Furthermore, our skin is also subject to the damage caused by oxidative stress caused by blue light. Also, take note that blue light is also emitted by florescent lighting and indoor LED light bulbs.
Blue light is a contributing cause of glaucoma, photoreceptor-related conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa, eye cancer, and macular degeneration. Blue light also contributes to dry eye syndrome and damage to the cornea, which is the outer protective layer for the eye.
In addition to the direct physical damage from blue light emitted from electronic screens, the slumped physical position that we sometimes adopt causes indirect damage to the eyes and body. It increases neck-muscle tightness, causes neuro-vascular compression, reduces available oxygen and nutrients, impinges on nerve conduction to and from the body and the head and compresses the lung cavities, preventing full, nourishing breathing.
Diplopia aka Double Vision
Double vision (diplopia) is one of the symptoms of computer vision syndrome. Nearly 29% of university students with computer eye syndrome complain of double vision. Diplopia onset is usually sudden and frequently causes fear. It usually lasts only a few moments, but is a warning that better ergonomics, more careful use of electronics, more attention to diet, getting enough quality sleep and regular exercise are warranted.
Double vision can also be due to more serious causes. If you experience double vision and it doesn’t go away very quickly, you should see a medical professional as soon as possible. It may be an indication of stroke, trauma, other diseases, or a systemic disorder.
Computer Vision Syndrome
Computer vision syndrome is caused by repeated stress to the eyes due to overuse, too-close viewing, staring and not blinking enough, and the blue light emitted by LED devices. CVS is aggravated by lack of the vision carotenoids that help prevent the development of free radicals. By itself it is not “serious” because with a change in lifestyle, diet, nutrition, and ergonomics it can be resolved. However, the damage from short-wavelength blue light that accompanies the practices that cause CVS can be permanent.
What You Can Do
Blue light blocking glasses for inside use, and amber (best) or brown colored sunglasses for outdoor use help to block blue light. There are blue light blocking computer glasses you can use as well.
Display filters. Most modern computers and cell phones have a built in blue light filter that you can turn on. For example, in Windows 10, if you right-click (or tap with two fingers) anywhere on the background screen and then select “display settings”, you can reset your night light settings to turn on in the morning and remain on all day, rather than only turning on in the evening. Blue light exposure in the evening hinders melatonin, the enzyme that helps you get to sleep, so modern computers have been adding the night settings. You can use them all day for more blue light protection.
Nutrition. The vision helping carotenoids, lutein, astaxanthin, zeaxanthin, meso-zeaxanthin and lycopene are yellow / red pigments that naturally help protect the retina and macula. It is well established that getting sufficient amounts of these essential nutrients protects against macular conditions such as macular degeneration (and are even passed through to the brain to support healthy brain function), cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, central serous chorioretinopathy, uveitis and retinitis pigmentosa.
Exercise. More and more research points out that daily moderate exercise, such as a 20 minute brisk walk is essential for good health and good vision.
Sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep is critical. One of the ways to help your body get to sleep naturally is to get enough exercise, don’t eat too heavily at dinner and avoid computer / cell phone use at least an hour before bed.
Diet. A diet rich in dark leafy greens and colored fruits and vegetables supplies these essential vision carotenoids. You need one cup (fresh) or 1/2 cup (cooked) dark leafy greens every day. Dark leafy greens include kale, chard, spinach, etc. You need 2 servings of colored vegetables or fruit daily. This includes tomatoes, winter squash, beets, berries, etc.
Take regular breaks from the computer. Take regular breaks at least every 1/2 – 1 hour to rest your eyes, do some eye exercises including palming and stretch.
Nutrients. Supplement with vision nutrients, especially the carotenoids if you think you are not regularly getting enough in your diet.
The best thing you can do to help save your vision is limit the amount of time on your device, get outside, play, laugh and do things that make you not want to look at your screen. By incorporating all of the aforementioned recommendations, you can rest easy that your vision will remain stronger for longer. And should you start to have issues, we are always available to help through the use of East Asian Medicine and acupuncture.