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Are Small Screens Causing Big Eye Problems?

In recent years the amount of time we spend staring at small screens has increased dramatically. Whether we are on instant messaging apps, reading emails, browsing the web or checking out social media sites, our cell phones are pretty much glued to our hands for a large part of every day.

We know that mobile devices have had an effect on obesity levels and that many people now live a more sedentary lifestyle, but what may not have considered is whether or not the time we spend on smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices affects our eyesight.

The Down Low on Digital Strain

It has long been established that staring at a small screen causes eyestrain and discomfort. Digital eyestrain is a common term used by optometrists and it’s becoming a more common affliction with every passing year. If you’ve ever experienced irritable dry eyes, blurred vision or eye fatigue after staring at a screen for a while, you’ve encountered digital eyestrain.

If you already suffer from poor eyesight and wear glasses or contact lenses you may be more susceptible to digital eyestrain. It’s thus important to ensure your prescription is always strong enough and that you have an annual eye test to avoid putting extra strain on your eyes.

There’s no direct cure for digital eyestrain and generally, it’s recommended that you take a break from looking at your phone or tablet for a while or abide by the 20-20-20 rule (every 20 minutes take a 20-second break and look at an object 20 feet away). This gives your eyes a break and helps you refocus and relax.

Shining a Light on Long Term Damage

Cell phones and tablets tend to emit a blue light, or HEV light and prolonged exposure to this, especially in the dark, can cause long-term eye damage. HEV light causes the greatest potential damage to living tissue as it has the shortest wavelengths, making it one of the brightest. This means it can damage the retina and lead to macular degeneration, causing a loss or deterioration of sight.

If you use your cell phone screen as a torch in the dark, you’ll know just how effective it can be and this illustrates how bright the light you are focusing on is. Staring at an HEV light is the equivalent of staring at the sun, and this activity is not one we undertake for any length of time, for a good reason!

Up Close and Personal

Studies have shown that we often spend more time staring at small screens than we do sleeping, and a large percentage of the population spends up to 9 hours a day looking at their mobile devices.

All this screen time is also causing a rise in cases of myopia (nearsightedness), and this eye condition has reached epidemic levels on a global scale. As we stare at small screens, our focus is up close with the exclusion of anything around us, and this leads to myopia as the eyes become trained to see close up and struggle to focus on objects further away.

Your smartphone or tablet may be a very valuable tool, but remember to give your eyes a break, look after them and avoid putting them under undue strain. Small screens have the potential to cause large problems, and you want to keep your eyes as healthy as possible!