Electronics, Screen Time, and Your Eyes

May 15, 2020

We’re surrounded by electronic devices. In fact, research shows that the average American adult spends up to half of their waking hours in front of screens. Though these screens are often staples at home, work, and on the go, they can have serious effects on your eyes. See how screen time impacts your eyes, vision, and health, and what you can do to minimize the effects.

Devices and your eyes

Screen time does not damage your eyes directly. However, it can lead to many eye problems—some of which cause lasting issues, like blurry vision, eye pain, and more. While there are claims that electronics damage eyes directly, most of those concerns center around misconceptions about blue light. Electronic devices do emit blue light—but so do the sun’s rays, fluorescent light bulbs, and LED lights! The American Academy of Ophthalmology notes that blue light and screen time do not harm eyes directly (though they can disrupt sleep patterns).

Instead, the main risks of excessive screen time are conditions like eyestrain and dry eye. Focusing up-close on e-readers, tablets, laptops, or phones can result in digital eyestrain. While temporary, eyestrain causes sensitivity to light, tearing, eye pain, migraines, and blurry vision, all of which interfere with daily functioning. Additionally, electronic usage can also cause or exacerbate dry eye, a chronic condition that impacts quality of life by causing pain, blurry vision, tearing, and more. As a person stares at a screen, their blinking is disrupted. Blinks become incomplete and less frequent. Since blinking necessarily lubricates the eyes for comfort, infrequent or incomplete blinks can have painful consequences.

Typically associated with older ages, dry eye and eyestrain are now more common among children than ever before. No video game is worth physical pain and discomfort. So, encourage all of the members in your family to cut back on screen time—conditions like dry eye affect people of all ages.

How can you minimize the effects of screens on your eyes?

Even if you spend plenty of time using electronic devices, there are many ways to keep your eyes happy. The 20-20-20 rule (where every 20 minutes, you focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds) can help keep your eyes from becoming too tired while you work. Turning your brightness levels down or purchasing an anti-glare filter for your screens are also good ideas.

While blue light from electronics won’t harm your eyes, it can disrupt your circadian rhythm and make it difficult to fall asleep. If you are concerned about this effect of screen time, check your devices for nighttime display settings or consider purchasing blue light filtering lenses.

Treat any underlying conditions

If you experience digital eyestrain or if you suffer from dry eye, visit an eye expert today. They’ll help you rule out problems like refractive errors that could be worsening your symptoms. And in the case of dry eye, they’ll provide you with a treatment plan for effective management—before your condition worsens. If oil gland blockage is causing your dry eye, we offer LipiFlow®, an innovative treatment that unclogs glands, prevents them from dying off, and restores lasting comfort. With early treatment, you can ensure a better prognosis for your chronic condition, enjoying the clear vision and healthy eyes you deserve.

If you have additional questions about your eyes and electronic screens, contact us today at (614) 939-1600 to learn more.