Digital Eye Strain: A Growing Problem

Unless someone has bothered to print this out for you (perhaps, your mother or grandmother), you're probably reading this on your computer or smartphone screen. This, of course, is not surprising. According to CNN, Americans spend more than 10 hours a day staring at one screen or another for both work and entertainment. But all of those hours staring at digital images and information can be very hard on your eyes. 

Don't Give Your Eye the Blues

Sunlight is made up of many different colored light rays -- some of which can cause damage to your eyes. Eye care specialists are especially concerned about blue light, which has a very short wavelength that produces a higher amount of energy, which can penetrate deep into your eyes. But sunlight isn't the only source of blue light. Digital screens such as those found on televisions, computers, smartphones, and tablets also emit damaging blue light. In fact, according to The Vision Council, these screens are actually the most common source of blue light exposure for many individuals. 

Some of the problems that blue light can cause include:

  • Tired eyes
  • Eye irritation
  • Double or blurred vision and problems with focusing
  • Dry eyes

Some eye care professionals group all of the symptoms listed above together and refer to them collectively as Computer Vision Syndrome or Digital Eye Strain.

Eye care physicians are also concerned that blue light exposure from digital screens may also increase your chances of getting age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of vision loss. In fact, according to, this eye condition affects the vision of more Americans than cataracts and glaucoma combined. 

Protect Your Eyes

If you spend a lot of time on your computer and feel that you may be suffering from Digital Eye Strain, you may need to take the following steps to protect your eyes:

  1. Take periodic breaks from your screen. Eye care professionals suggest that you look up from a screen at least once every 20 minutes and pick an object about 20 feet away to look at. Allow your eyes to concentrate on that object for at least 20 seconds. This will give your eyes a rest from constantly staring at a screen directly in front of your face. 
  2. Change your display settings. You may be able to alleviate some of your eye strain and symptoms by adjusting the size of your text or by changing the brightness setting on your phone or computer. And some smartphones also come with settings to reduce the amount of blue light your eyes are exposed to. For example, iPhones with the iOS 9.3 setting have a feature called Night Shift Mode that will turn down the brightness of your screen and, thus, reduce the amount of blue light that your eyes are exposed to. 
  3. Add a glare filter to your screen. A filter can decrease the blue light that is being reflected from your screen and into your eyes.  
  4. Consult with an eye care provider. An eye care specialist may recommend that you wear eyeglasses that have anti-reflective coatings, which can reduce the effects of the damaging blue light that your screens emit. Your eye care specialist may also suggest that you get special blue-light lenses that you can wear whenever you will be viewing digital content on a screen. These type of glasses are available in both prescription and non-prescription versions and can help reduce your eye strain. 

And if you are experiencing double vision or if you're having problems focusing, it's also important to consult with an eye care provider to rule out other possible causes. Finally, now that you're done reading this, it may be time to shut your device off to give your eyes a rest -- at least for a little while. You can learn more by going here.