Are digital screens bad for your eyes?

Do you remember what your cell phone was like 5 years ago? Nowadays we have so many reasons to keep staring at our computer or phone screens throughout the day, you might be wondering - is all this staring at our phones harmful to our eyes? This is a topic that seems to be evolving, and will continue to change as new research deepens our understanding of how the seemingly insatiable habit of gazing into digital screens can impact our health.

Up until recently, we thought long term exposure to the blue light emitted by digital devices could harm our eyes in a similar way that UV light from the sun can. It was thought that the constant bombardment of blue light from digital devices could damage the light-sensitive cells in the retina, thereby increasing our risk for a sight-threatening condition called macular degeneration. Thankfully, new research suggests our maculas are not at increased risk of the harmful degenerative disease. But there’s more to the negative impacts of digital screens than the question of macular damage. It affects our brains and dries out our eyes.

By staring at digital screens, we blink less, leading to the eyes drying out. When we blink, the oil glands that line our eyelids normally release small amounts of oil into the eyes with each blink. Since we blink less often - a LOT less often - when gazing into our screens, far less of the precious oils make it into our eyes. As a result, our tears evaporate, leaving the surface of our eyes dry and exposed to the air, which leads to chronic dry eye disease.

.Also, the blue light actually makes us over-focus, causing our eyes to work even harder and thereby causing eye fatigue, strain and tired eyes. This can even lead to chronic headaches. That’s why it’s good to give your eye muscles a break every 10 minutes or so and aim your gaze across the room or out the window. Looking at something in the distance allows your eyes to relax. At AVC we perform tests to measure how hard your eye muscles are working, and we can prescribe a glasses technology called Neurolenses to reduce eye strain, headaches and other related symptoms.

Another impact of staring at our screens is that blue light actually disrupts our sleep by suppressing the production of melatonin. Glasses can be treated with a blue light filter to reduce the amount of blue light that enters your eyes. The filter is transparent, so it doesn’t change the tint of the lenses in your glasses. Interestingly, transition lenses (also called photochromic lenses) also filter damaging blue light even when you’re indoors and the lenses appear clear.

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