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With the rise of tablet and smart phone use and the need for much of today’s workforce to use a computer on a daily basis, people look at LED screens more than ever before. This has led to a rise in what doctors are calling “computer vision syndrome.” These screens emit a lot of “blue” light, which, while essential for eye health in smaller doses, can cause a variety of problems for the eyes in excess.

The Rise of Screens

According to a recent survey, the average office worker spends over 6 hours a day in front of a computer screen. This does not even count the time spent on a smart phone or other device or time spent recreationally in front of a computer, which some estimate to be as much as 11 hours a day. The same survey found that over 35 percent of these office workers report having to squint to read the text on the screen and that they suffer from frequent headaches associated with time spent on the computer.

eye strain

What Damage Can Too Much Screen Time Cause?

Spending so much time on screens can cause a condition known as “computer vision syndrome” for a couple of reasons. Looking at something so close to your face causes the muscles of the eyes to be locked into a position that over time, can cause discomfort and actual fatigue to the muscles. We also tend to blink less when our eyes are staring at a computer screen, which can increase redness, dryness and other forms of irritation due to the lack of lubrication that blinking naturally provides. Eye strain can lead to visual impairment and cause fatigue and even pain in the eyes.

What About the Blue Light Itself?

Blue light has a shorter wavelength than other colors on the visible spectrum, and red has the longest. While the sun gives off blue light, including Ultra-Violet rays, and much of this is actually beneficial to human health, too much at too close a range can have negative health effects. According to PreventBlindness.org, most visible blue light passes through the cornea and lens and reaches the retina, where it can do damage. Retinal damage can result in age-related macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of vision loss for adults 50 years or over.

What Can I Do About Too Much Screen Time?

Unfortunately, many of us have jobs that require us to be in front of a computer most of our working day. There are several precautions you can take however, that limit the potential damage caused by too much screen time and help prevent vision loss or eye strain. You should take a break from looking at the screen every 20 to 30 minutes, and instead focus on something far away to help both your eye muscles relax and your retina get a break from the blue light.

On your personal time, you can also try to limit the amount of recreational activity, including video games, movies and social media that you engage in. Both screen filters and computer glasses are available that help to reduce the amount of blue light that enters the eye. If you are already experiencing symptoms of eye strain, ask the ophthalmologists at Silverstein Eye Centers for specific recommendations to protect your eyes from too much screen time.

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