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Wednesday, November 29 2023

Screen time strain: Risks and tips for eye health

Screen time strain Risks and tips for eye health
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Mohan (name changed), 36-year-old, an IT professional from Bangalore working in the cyber division in Singapore was under immense work pressure over the last 3-4 months and ended up staring at the screen for 18 hours a day. He had disturbed sleep almost every day and started noticing blurred, patterned and distorted vision in the morning, last month. He went in for a retinal and brain scan in Singapore and returned to Bangalore out of extreme anxiety. He visited Sakra World Hospital and got diagnosed with severe dry eyes. With adequate medication, proper counselling and a few days’ rest, he felt better and was able to return to work.

Not just Mohan, doctors are seeing rising eye-related issues among a large number of people with prolonged screen time, be it a laptop, desktop or mobile phone. With the proliferation of electronic devices and the increasing number of people who rely on them for work and entertainment, excessive screen time has become a major concern.

While prolonged use of electronic devices has many benefits, including greater accessibility to information and better connectivity with others, it is not without its drawbacks. One of the most significant downsides of excessive screen time is its impact on the eyes.

The various ways prolonged screen time affects our eyes

Eye strain: The most immediate effect of excessive screen time is eye strain, also known as digital eye strain or computer vision syndrome. Eye strain occurs when the eyes are overworked, causing them to feel tired, sore, and dry. It is characterised by a variety of symptoms, including headaches, blurred vision, double vision, and difficulty focusing. Eye strain can be caused by several factors, including the brightness and contrast of the screen, the size and resolution of the display and the distance between the eyes and the screen.

Glare disability and sleep disturbance: One of the most significant causes of eye strain is blue light, a type of light that is emitted by electronic devices. Blue light has a shorter wavelength than other types of light, which means it is more likely to scatter and cause glare. This can also lead to a condition known as glare disability, which is characterised by difficulty seeing clearly in bright light conditions. Blue light can also disrupt the circadian rhythm, which can affect sleep patterns and cause other health problems.

Dry eye syndrome: Another eye disorder that can result from excessive screen time is dry eye syndrome. Dry eye syndrome occurs when the eyes do not produce enough tears to keep them moist and comfortable. This can lead to a range of symptoms, including itching, burning, and redness. Dry eye syndrome can be caused by several factors, including the decreased blink rate that occurs when people stare at screens for long periods of time.

Myopia: Excessive screen time can also lead to myopia, also known as nearsightedness. Myopia occurs when the eye’s focusing mechanism becomes too powerful, causing images to be focused in front of the retina instead of on it. This can lead to blurry vision when looking at objects that are far away. Myopia is more common in people who spend a lot of time looking at screens because it can cause the eye to become elongated, which can exacerbate the condition.

Macular Degeneration: One of the most serious eye disorders that can result from excessive screen time and exposure to high energy short wavelength Blue Light is Macular Degeneration. Macular degeneration is a progressive eye disease that affects the macula, the part of the eye responsible for central vision. It is characterised by the deterioration of the macula, which can lead to blurred or distorted vision. Macular degeneration is more common in older adults, but excessive screen time can accelerate the development of the disease.

Tips to reduce eye risks due to excessive screen time

How can one reduce the risk of eye disorders caused by excessive screen time? Here are some tips:

Take breaks: Take regular breaks when using electronic devices to give your eyes a rest. The American Optometric Association recommends the 20-20-20 rule, which involves taking a 20-second break every 20 minutes to look at something 20 feet away.

Adjust your screen: Adjust the brightness and contrast of your screen to reduce glare and eye strain. You can also adjust the size and resolution of the display to make it easier to read.

Blink more: Make a conscious effort to blink more when looking at screens. This can help reduce the risk of dry eye syndrome.

Use blue light filters: Use blue light filters on your electronic devices to reduce the amount of blue light that is emitted. You can also use blue light-blocking glasses to protect your eyes.

Get regular eye exams: Regular eye exams can help you to keep a check on the development of any sort of eye complications due to prolonged screen time. As we all know, prevention is always better than cure.

Following these simple tips, maintaining proper work-life balance and certain lifestyle modifications to reduce screen time as much as possible can help one to avoid prolonged screen time-induced eye-related disorders and can give one’s vision the desired longevity.

Authored by: Dr Sandeep Suresh Patil

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