Eleven hours. This is the number of 60-minute sessions that the average adult spends staring at a screen each day, according to statistics reported by htxt Africa. There are hundreds of reasons we tap into technology each day and while it makes our lives easier, the extortionate amount of time people spend looking at screens, says Ruahan Naude, CEO at Dynamic Vision, is affecting our eyes.
“From working on laptops and computer screens, to checking smartphones for messages and updates throughout the day, to reading and browsing on tablets, followed by a healthy dose of TV or some cell phone games to round off the day, we are all spending most of our days looking at a screen,” says Naude. While most of us take great care to wear sunglasses to protect our eyes from ultraviolet (UV) light and blue light in sunlight, very few understand the risks, or take any precaution, against the effects of blue light from screens, he warns.
The problem is digital devices and modern lighting, such as LED lights and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), emit a high level of blue light, which is harmful to eyes, he says. While UV light affects the front of the eye and forms cataracts, blue light causes damage to the back of the eye and increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and permanent vision loss. As the effects of screen time – and the resulting exposure to blue light – have started to take its toll on people’s eyes, the terms Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), or digital eyestrain, have emerged.
Symptoms include headaches towards the front of the head and around the eyes, sore and tired eyes, body fatigue, feeling tired and wanting to close your eyes, vision fluctuation, sensitivity to light, poor night vision, dry, red eyes and itchy eyes that you need to rub frequently. You may even experience reduced concentration, as most of the symptoms of digital eyestrain are uncomfortable, it causes a distraction.
To avoid digital eye strain, Naude recommends that people keep their screens at least 50 to 70 centimeters away from their eyes; use an anti-glare screen to prevent glare; avoid excessively bright outdoor or indoor light, and zoom into pages to increase the font size. You can also wear glasses with fatigue reducing lenses.
And then of course exercise is always great – you can literally strength train your eyes, he says. Naude recommends exercising your eyes by moving your eyes side to side, up and down and in a circle throughout the day. “Every 20 minutes try to take a break from staring at the screen, blink your eyes ten times and then focus on something else that is some distance away for a few seconds,” he says.