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05 June 2018

Are you suffering with ‘digital eye strain’? Here’s how you can tell

Feel like someone rubbed chilli in your eyes?

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Quick question: Between your smart phone, laptop and the TV, how many hours a day do you spend glued to a screen? Just take a moment to work it out and I guarantee you it’s more than you thought.

I did a little calculation and was shocked when I figured out that I spend a good 10 hours of my day fixated on a screen (yikes!). I’ve been struggling with my eyes a lot lately. After a few hours of staring at my laptop things get a little blurry, I struggle to concentrate and it feels like there isn’t enough coffee in the world to keep my eyes from wanting to close shut. So, what gives?

Well, I decided to contact some experts and here’s the bad news in a nutshell: If you’re spending as little as two hours at a time staring at a screen, you’re actually setting yourself up for digital eye strain.

Read more: 6 most common signs you’ve damaged your eyes – and how to fix it

What is digital eye strain?

“When looking at different digital devices, we are constantly changing the reading distance, which is very stressful for our eyes,” says Andre Horn, a senior optometrist and Mellins i-Style’s managing director. It also doesn’t help that the small print and pixilated images on tablets and phones can be ridiculously tiny, leaving you squinting. Oh, and that blue light that your devices’ screen emits isn’t exactly doing your eyes any favours either.

If you’re scratching your head wondering what “blue light” is, let me break it down for you: High energy visible (HEV) or “blue light” has a very short wavelength and produces a higher amount of energy. Our eyes’ natural filters simply can’t provide sufficient protection against this type of light, which reaches all the way to the light-sensitive cells of the retina (the inner lining of the back of the eye). This is why your eyes feel tired and achy after staring at a screen for too long.

Recent studies have also found that blue light reduces the body’s melatonin levels that are needed to fall asleep naturally. All that late-night scrolling on your feeds is causing you to stay awake for longer (hello Facebook-induced insomnia, is that you?).

Read more: Could you be at risk for one of these five serious eye diseases?

Changes you should make ASAP

So how can you save your sight – you know, without giving up your devices?

Get some hi-tech lenses. If like me, you spend most of your day staring at a screen, you can get special anti-fatigue lenses (these help relax the eye muscles), or lenses with a blue light protective coating to help block HEV from entering your eye.

Apply the 20:20 rule. It’s also a good idea to take regular screen breaks. Every 20 minutes, get in the habit of looking up from the screen and finding a distant object to focus on for 20 seconds, which gets you back to a normal blinking pattern and restores moisture.

Adjust that screen. It’s such an easy tweak but can make the world of difference – adjust your computer so the screen is an arm’s length away from your eyes.

Ditch the glare. Decrease the brightness across all of your device (or download a handy app like f.lux which helps adjust your desktop settings).

And don’t forget – old-school is cool! Our eyes find it easier to focus on paper, so put that phone down and get out a good book (especially before bed).

*Note: If you have an unresolved eye condition (like astigmatism or farsightedness), it might aggravate the feeling of glare from a computer screen. Regular eye examinations are therefore important to identify potential problems.

This article was originally published on www.womenshealthsa.co.za

Image credit: iStock 

 
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