Side effects of too much screen time on eye health

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Long WFH hours among adults, and offline classes for kids amid the pandemic have increased the screen time exposure, leading to eye health-related issues.

Today, we spend most of our time staring at screens, whether it is to work, to relax, or just to keep up with our lives. We are constantly exposed to screens such as smartphones, desktops, laptops, tablets, game systems, and LED TVs, which place strain on our eyes. As Covid-19 wreaked havoc throughout the world, our reliance on technology increased tremendously, and working from home and taking online classes became the new normal. Many adults and children’s addiction to numerous devices further enhanced the screen time. 

Several sources, including Lancet Global Health, the World Health Organization, and Screen Time Tracker Datareportal, suggest that Indians have sustained the largest loss of vision in 2020 (even though other factors like Glaucoma, cataracts and others at the same time affected their vision). Study findings reveal that 22.7% of Indians suffer from vision problems as a result of their excessive use of screens, which are used for an average of 6 hours, 36 minutes each day. In addition to a negative impact on eyes, excessive screen time impairs the brain’s capacity to absorb information, focus, make decisions, and manage thoughts. 

Why screen time breaks are important

Spending long hours in front of screens takes a toll on your eyes, as your eyes strain from the effort of staring at tiny pixels and can cause symptoms like:

  • Eye fatigue: Excessive usage of your eyes can cause double vision, headaches, and difficulty concentrating.
  • Dry and itchy eyes: Screens can make it difficult to blink as much as you should. Because your eyes require moisture and nutrients at all times, we blink so frequently. When you stare at a screen, you blink far less, which causes your eyes to dry up.
  • Blurry vision: Loss of focus flexibility is normal as we age, but prolonged screen time can impair our ability to swiftly adapt our eyes to see at all distances.
  • Nearsightedness: Screen time can keep our children indoors, which can be detrimental to their eye health in the long run. It has been seen that children who spend more time indoors are more likely to develop nearsightedness.
  • Retinal damage: Blue light emitted by digital gadgets might reach the inner lining of the back of your eye (retina) and damage sensitive cells in the retina. This can result in early age-related macular degeneration, which can lead to vision loss. Children are more prone to retinal damage than adults.
  • Wrong positioning of devices: Many individuals spend their days staring down at little displays on their phones or using computers and monitors that aren’t positioned high enough, leading their neck and shoulders to stoop.
Tips to protect your eyes from screen time and digital strain

One can easily combat the Computer Vision syndrome with these effective measures:

  • The screen should be easy on the eyes: If the screen is brighter than the ambient light, the eyes will have to work harder to see. To decrease eye strain, one can adjust their room lighting or screen illumination and enhance the contrast on your screen.
  • Use the 20-20-20 rule: To decrease eye strain, take a 20-second break every 20 minutes by staring at an item 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This provides a respite for your eyes and helps them to refocus.
  • Keep your eyes wet: When your eyes feel dry, consider using artificial tears to moisten them. Not only does screen time dry up your eyes, but so can the heaters and air conditioners in your home.
  • Keep your distance: Keep your screen approximately an arm’s length or 25 inches away from your eyes — when the screen is near to your face, your eyes work harder.
  • Use blue light filters: A blue light filter can decrease the amount of blue light displayed on your screen. By reducing this light, your eyes won’t feel as tired by the end of the day.
  • Yearly eye exam: Get an annual eye examination so your doctor can examine your eye health and see if any chronic eye issues are forming.

According to Dr Sheetal Kishanpuria, Senior Consultant, Sharp Sight Eye Hospitals, “As we spend long hours looking at different devices, it becomes increasingly important to take good care of our eyes. While children attending online classes and people working from home have no escape, healthy practices such as limiting screen time and getting regular eye exams can mitigate the damage to their eyes. Furthermore, eating a healthy diet like salmon, soya, lentils, and green leafy vegetables, which are packed with Vitamin A, will go a long way in maintaining a healthy vision.” 

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