BLUE & ULTRAVIOLET (UV) LIGHT:
The largest source of blue and ultraviolet light is sunlight. However, there is growing concern over the long-term effects of screen exposure from television displays, computer monitors, smart phones and tablet devices. Research shows that too much exposure to blue light may lead to digital eye strain and even retinal damage. Cumulative blue light exposure has been linked to long-term vision problems such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
In addition, long term exposure to UV radiation over the course of one’s life can contribute to problems such as: cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), pterygiums (an abnormal growth on the white part of the eye) and cancer of the eyelids and even the eye itself. If the eyes are exposed to excessive amounts of UV radiation over a short period of time, individuals may experience photokeratitis. Photokeratitis, also known as UV keratitis, may lead to symptoms such as red, gritty or painful eyes; extreme sensitivity to light and tearing. This rarely causes permanent damage, but can be a lead to fluctuating vision and substantial discomfort.
While outdoors, it is important to wear the right sunglasses as a defense against UV rays that can cause short and long term eye damage. The single most important thing to look for when buying sunglasses to protect your eyes is a sticker or tag, indicating that the eyeglasses block 100% of UV rays. Consider buying oversized glasses which help cut down on UV entering the eye from the side. While very dark lenses may look fashionable, they do not necessarily block more UV rays. While some contact lenses also offer UV protection, these lenses should be worn with sunglasses to maximize protection.
Polarized lenses cut glare, but do not provide UV protection unless specifically stated. Polarization reduces glare coming off reflective surfaces like water or pavement, making activities like driving, hiking and boating more enjoyable. Sunglasses don’t have to cost a lot of money to work well. Less expensive pairs marked as 100% UV blocking can be just as effective as their pricier counterparts.
COMPUTER VISION SYNDROME & DIGITAL EYE STRAIN
We usually think of work-related eye injuries as being isolated to technical jobs and construction work. However, working several hours daily at a computer desk can be just as hazardous to one’s eyesight. Among the most common reasons for dry eyes, eye fatigue and headaches is digital eye strain. Digital eye strain is defined as physical discomfort felt after prolonged exposure to digital screens.
While constantly being on the computer will not permanently damage vision, it can make the eyes feel uncomfortable. Studies also show that staring at a screen for extended periods of time lengthens the time between blinks, preventing eyes from staying lubricated and compromising the stability of the ocular surface.
TIPS FOR PREVENTING COMPUTER VISION SYNDROME & DIGITAL EYE STRAIN
Posture is key: Position your device so there is sufficient distance between your eyes and the screen. Place your computer screen 20-25 inches away from your eyes and a little bit below eye level. Adjust your screen to be at the right angle away from any direct light source. Use a chair you can adjust.
Text size: Adjust the text size on the screen to a comfortable level.
Reduce glare: Change your lighting to reduce glare and harsh reflections as this will help your eyes to see more comfortably. Adjust the brightness of your screen by checking the devices control settings. Investing in an anti-glare filter for your computer screen can help make computer work more comfortable on the eyes.
20/20/20 Rule: While engaged in near activities (e.g. reading, computer work, etc.), take a 20 second break every 20 minutes and look at an object 20 feet away. Even short breaks make a huge difference.
Artificial tears: Over the counter eye drops (e.g. Refresh, Systane, GenTeal, TheraTears, Retaine, etc.) can be extremely helpful in preventing dryness and help keep your eyes comfortable.
Blink more often: It may seem like common sense, but when we concentrate, we drastically reduce our blink rate causing the eyes to become dry and lead to fatigue. Remind yourself to blink more often, which also helps the eyes refocus.
Wear computer glasses: Computer or occupational glasses are an increasingly popular solution for reducing both digital eye strain and the potentially damaging effects that increased digital use can have on vision. Computer glasses help the eyes adjust to intermediate vision, so that tasks on computer screens can be performed more comfortably. Computer glasses can be obtained with and without a prescription. Prescription computer glasses can even feature lenses that selectively absorb harmful blue light and reduce glare and reflections.
By protecting our eyes while at work and at home, we can help stay healthy and productive for years to come. Nothing can replace the importance of having an eye exam by a licensed eye care professional.