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How are your eyes being affected by screen time?

5/14/2015
In honour of Vision Health Month, ophthalmologist Dr. Andrew Merkur answers your questions about how to keep our eyes healthy. 

Q: I feel like I’m looking at a screen almost constantly between my home laptop, work computer, and phone. Could this be damaging my eyes? 

A: Today, more of us are spending more time looking at our computers, tablets, and smartphones. Some people experience no eye problems at all from lots of screen time, while others have some or all of the following symptoms:
  • eye discomfort
  • burning sensation, irritation, redness
  • strain
  • dry eyes
  • headaches
  • blurred vision
  • short bouts of double vision
Although using these technologies are not damaging to your eyes, the symptoms may be bothersome. In medical literature, this is commonly called computer vision syndrome, or CVS.  
Many of these symptoms are related to a decrease in the number and quality of eye blinks and the associated drying of the eyes experienced when we are immersed in computer screen activities. Other symptoms are related to prolonged focusing on close objects. Also, while focusing on close objects, the muscles outside of the eye rotate both eyes toward the target on the screen and some of the symptoms listed above are related to prolonged contraction of these muscles.

Q: How can I lessen the strain that screens put on my eyes?

A: Some people find relief by adjusting the lighting around the computer workstation. An ideal environment would allow equalized brightness throughout the user’s visual field.
Sitting further away from the screen, ideally 85 cm to 100 cm away, has been shown helpful in small studies. 
Frequent work breaks and looking at a distant object every 30 minutes has also been anecdotally helpful.
Using lubricating eye drops may help and wearing proper eyewear for the monitor distance is beneficial. Progressive lenses may be helpful for some, but dedicated single vision glasses made for computer distances are preferred.

Q: Can a better diet improve my eye health? 

A: For most of medicine, eye diseases included, a healthy diet is one of the most important forms of prevention. Currently, no medication, vitamin, or micronutrient supplement has consistently shown any benefit in preventing age-related eye diseases.   
A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish high in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, anchovies, sardines, mackerel, etc.) and low in animal products seems to be healthier and likely to prevent or delay age-related disease onset as compared to a “fast food” diet high in sodium, refined carbohydrates, saturated fat, and animal protein.

Q: What age-related vision problems are most prevalent in Canada?

A: Approximately 70 per cent of Canadians over 80 years of age have cataracts, however, this condition is reversible with cataract surgery. Among the same population, approximately seven per cent have glaucoma and around 15 per cent have macular degeneration. Both conditions cause irreversible vision loss.

Q: How can I prevent these problems?

A: Maintaining a healthy diet, healthy weight, and BMI are important, as well as routine screening eye examinations. Regular exercise and stopping smoking are also recommended and may have a preventative effect on age-related eye diseases.
Finally, many experts continue to recommend vitamins, micronutrients, eye drops, specialized eyewear, and other preventative strategies but it is important to understand that none have generated enough evidence to support their use. Costs and adverse effects have been found with some of these so-called prevention strategies and caution is warranted at the present time.
SOURCE: How are your eyes being affected by screen time? ( )
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