There is growing evidence that spending too much time looking at screens is bad for our eyes. Recently a YouGov poll conducted for Fight For Sight revealed that increased screen time due to the COVID-19 pandemic has already had a negative impact on our eye health. The study found that 49% of people reported an increase in their screen time since the start of the pandemic, with over a third reporting that their eyesight had worsened.
Computer Vision Syndrome
Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), also commonly known as digital eye strain, refers to several symptoms which result from overusing digital screens and spending too much time looking at them.
By spending prolonged periods of time looking at screens without a break we heighten the risk of experiencing CVS and risk doing long-term damage to our eyesight. Common symptoms include blurred vision, headaches and dry eyes, all of which make it more difficult to look at screens and increase eye strain.
With more and more of our time both at home and at work spent looking at screens, what could this do to our eyes in the long term?
Protecting Your Eyes
Thankfully, there are many ways in which we can mitigate the negative effects of so much screen time.
First and foremost, it is important to take breaks. The 20.20.20 rule is effective and easy to remember: every 20 minutes you should aim to look away from your screen for 20 seconds, and let your eyes focus on something 20 metres away.
Keep your eyes moist. When we stare at screens for too long we can often forget to blink. This reduced blinking makes our eyes much drier than they would be normally. Frequently looking away from your screen is a way of allowing yourself to blink more, while also giving your eyes a rest. Alternatively, using eye drops is another great option to prevent your eyes from drying out.
Another option is to use special blue light glasses to filter the light coming from your screen. Blue light glasses protect your eyes from harmful blue light which can cause blurriness on screens and make it hard to concentrate, leading to eye strain, headaches and fatigue. You can either have blue light glasses as a standalone set of frames or combine them with your prescription glasses.
You should also try to reduce the screen brightness and glare to protect your eyes from the harsh artificial light. You can easily lower the brightness settings on most devices, and filters can be downloaded or physically applied to your screens to further soften the light.
Other solutions include ensuring a reasonable distance between the screen and your eyes, and increasing the font size or zooming in if you’re finding things difficult to read.
It is also important to get regular eye tests to prevent any changes in your vision from going unnoticed and to wear any prescribed eyewear for preexisting vision problems.
We looked at a variety of reputable sources to research what effect modern living and screen time has on our eyes. We compiled this information and considered what our own eyes would look like in the future without any preventative measures to mitigate these effects.
The main effects considered are dry eyes, blurred vision, red eyes and headaches.
Association of Optometrists - aop.org.uk
American Optometric Association - aoa.org
Harvard Health Publishing - health.harvard.edu
Healthline - healthline.com
Fight for Sight - fightforsight.org.uk