This month as part of Save Your Vision Month, we took a look at the growth of personal technology usage and its effects on eye health. Screen viewing worldwide is skyrocketing, ushering in a future that is quite different than the present for vision care. While we know prevention is the best medicine, UV exposure and technology use have increased significantly in recent years, and the lack of education about these factors puts the public at increased risk.
Over 90% of adults spend more than two hours per day using digital devices, while more than 60% are spending five hours or more. As those numbers continue to increase worldwide, the prevalence of digital eye strain is skyrocketing. Those who work in front of computer screens are particularly prone to digital eye strain, with studies showing that office workers’ eyes undergo physiological changes that decrease tear fluid production, similar to those seen in people with dry eye disease. It’s not fully understood what the long term effects of digital eye strain on this scale will be for eye health, but the change in the way we use our eyes has been dramatic.
There is no one culprit responsible for digital eye strain. Small print and pixelated imagery featured on websites and devices can be difficult to see or read, leading eyes to strain in order to focus. Devices may also be positioned too far from or at the wrong angle to our eyes, leading to similar strain. High-energy visible (HEV) light, more commonly referred to as blue light, is commonly emitted from digital device screens and causes more strain on our eyes than other colors which emit longer wavelengths.
Perhaps even more compelling is that the eye health risk does not go away once one steps away from the screen and out the door – due to the effects of ozone depletion over the past decade, we continue to see an increase in UV exposure when outside. UV rays pose serious risks to the eyes and have been linked to cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and melanoma of the eye. Yet 94% of people don’t know UV exposure is bad for their eyes, and 49% of adults don’t know that UV exposure increases the likelihood of cataracts. Another 36% don’t know that eyes can be sunburned. Children in particular are vulnerable – their UV exposure is approximately three times that of adults, and their eyes are far more UV-sensitive.
The most powerful tools at our disposal are research and education. We must study the long term effects of this unprecedented change in the way we are using our eyes, and we must make people aware of the risks and of the precautions they should be taking, like breaking up screen time to allow eyes to rest, wearing UV-protecting sunglasses even when it is not sunny, and getting regular eye exams.
Join us as the Vision Impact Institute calls for increased attention to eye health and to raising awareness of eye health risks and vision saving precautions.