Square Eyes

Ex­tended Screen Time is Dam­ag­ing Our Eyes

Indwe - - Advertisements - Text: Sup­plied Im­ages © iS­tock­photo.com

Alarm­ing statis­tics suggest that the av­er­age adult spends more than 11 hours star­ing at some sort of screen ev­ery day. In South Africa specif­i­cally, ac­cord­ing to a 2016 ar­ti­cle by tech news site htxt Africa, screen time per per­son is just un­der five hours a day. This has likely in­creased dra­mat­i­cally along with ad­vances in smart­phone and tablet tech­nolo­gies in the last year. What is so wor­ry­ing about the in­or­di­nate amount of time peo­ple spend look­ing at screens, says Rua­han Naudé, CEO at Dy­namic Vi­sion, is the harm­ful ef­fect it is hav­ing on our eyes.

“From work­ing on lap­tops and com­puter screens, to check­ing smart­phones for mes­sages and up­dates through­out the day, to read­ing and brows­ing on tablets, fol­lowed by a healthy dose of TV or some cell­phone games to round off the day, we are all spend­ing most of our days look­ing at a screen. We are def­i­nitely see­ing an in­creas­ing num­ber of pa­tients suf­fer­ing with symp­toms re­lated to pro­longed ex­po­sure to these screens. While most of us take great care to wear sun­glasses to pro­tect our eyes from the ul­tra­vi­o­let (UV) light and blue light in sun­light, very few un­der­stand the risks – or take any pre­cau­tion – against the ef­fects of blue light from screens,” Naudé says.

He ex­plains that dig­i­tal de­vices and mod­ern light­ing, such as LED lights and com­pact flu­o­res­cent lamps (CFLs), emit a high level of blue light which is harm­ful to eyes. While UV light af­fects the front of the eye and forms cataracts, blue light causes dam­age to the back of the eye and in­creases the risk of age-re­lated mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion (AMD) and per­ma­nent vi­sion loss. As the ef­fects of screen time – and the re­sult­ing ex­po­sure to blue light – have started to take its toll on peo­ple’s eyes, the terms “com­puter vi­sion syn­drome” (CVS) or “dig­i­tal eye strain” have been bandied about more fre­quently.

“Of­ten­times, peo­ple don’t even link the symp­toms or dis­com­fort they are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing to the pro­longed time they spend star­ing at screens. It’s im­por­tant that peo­ple start to un­der­stand the ef­fects of ex­po­sure to blue light from screens, as well as know how to recog­nise the pos­si­ble symp­toms of dig­i­tal eye strain,” Naudé says.

Ac­cord­ing to SEIKO Vi­sion, pos­si­ble signs of dig­i­tal eye strain in­clude: •Headaches to­wards the front of the

head and around the eyes.

• Sore and tired eyes.

• Body fa­tigue, feel­ing tired and want­ing

to close your eyes.

• Vi­sion fluc­tu­a­tion, which oc­curs when the mus­cles in the eyes be­come so used to fo­cus­ing on a dig­i­tal de­vice that they can’t re­lax when they look at some­thing else.

• Sen­si­tiv­ity to light.

•Poor night vi­sion, which re­sults from eye mus­cles be­ing over­stressed from con­stantly try­ing to fo­cus on light sources and dig­i­tal de­vices.

• Dry, red eyes.

• Itchy eyes that you need to

rub fre­quently. •Re­duced con­cen­tra­tion. As most of the symp­toms of dig­i­tal eye strain are un­com­fort­able, it causes dis­trac­tion. To avoid dig­i­tal eye strain, Naudé rec­om­mends that peo­ple: keep their screens at least 50 to 70 cm away from their eyes; use an anti-glare screen to pre­vent glare; avoid ex­ces­sively bright out­door or in­door light; and zoom into pages to in­crease the font size.

“It is good to keep ex­er­cis­ing your eyes by mov­ing your eyes side to side, up and down and in a cir­cle. Also, ev­ery 20 min­utes try to take a break from star­ing at the screen, blink your eyes ten times, and then fo­cus on some­thing else that is some dis­tance away for a few sec­onds. You can also wear glasses with fa­tiguere­duc­ing lenses. These pro­vide what is called ‘ac­com­moda­tive sup­port’, be­yond that pro­vided by tra­di­tional, sin­gle­vi­sion lenses.

Ac­com­moda­tive sup­port from the likes of blue-light sup­port lenses is lit­er­ally en­ergy for your eyes. They en­sure more fo­cused vi­sion in all di­rec­tions and dis­tances to pre­vent fa­tigue and strain.”

He con­cludes by say­ing that peo­ple shouldn’t ig­nore un­pleas­ant symp­toms such as burn­ing and itchy eyes, red­ness or vi­sion fluc­tu­a­tions.

“If your eyes are feel­ing sore and fa­tigued, and you are bat­tling to fo­cus, get them checked out. Reg­u­lar eye ex­ams will help to iden­tify is­sues be­fore they be­come ma­jor prob­lems. If your symp­toms are be­cause of dig­i­tal eye strain, you can take steps to pro­tect your eyes and avoid per­ma­nent dam­age.”

For more in­for­ma­tion on your near­est Dy­namic Vi­sion op­tometrist, visit dy­nam­icvi­sionsa.co.za or have a look at the Dy­nam­icvi­sionsa Face­book page for tips.

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