Eye strains expand with variety of screens

Friday, January 22, 2016

Most of us who spend much of our day staring at screens have heard of the 20-20-20 rule.

It's a simple formula; every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. While you're at it, blink often, stand up and walk around and adjust your computer screen so the words are as easy to read as possible.

But the advent of tablets and smartphones has complicated the formula.

Many of us, instead of looking 20 feet away, simply shift to a smaller screen closer to our eyes before turning back to the television or computer screen.

As a result, three-quarters of people who use two or more devices simultaneously report symptoms of digital eye strain, compared with just over half of people who use one device at a time, according to a survey of more than 10,000 people released Wednesday by The Vision Council, a trade group representing manufacturers and suppliers of the optical industry.

Symptoms include neck/shoulder/back pain, eye strain, headache, blurred vision and try eyes.

Usually the symptoms are temporary, resulting from the tiny muscles in the eye working overtime to focus on objects in proximity and adjust to different lighting levels.

While most people recover after taking a break, experts are worried there may be another problem lurking in the background.

New research indicates cumulative and constant exposure to the high-energy blue light emitted from digital screens may damage the light receptors in the back of the eye. That could lead to age-related macular degeneration, or a loss of central vision.

Plus, exposure to blue light wavelengths, useful for color perception and being alert during the day, can disrupt the melatonin that regulates circadian rhythms that cause us to sleep well at night.

There are a lot of things you can do to improve the situation, such as following the 20-20-20 rule, keeping your computer screen an arms length away and enlarging the font size to avoid the temptation to slump forward, adjust the height of your screen so you look down slightly at your work, and consider investing in computer glasses designed to filter out high-energy light and adjust the focus to a comfortable mid-range level.

Along a similar vein, local optometrists are planning a "Race for You (V)," a 34-mile relay run Feb. 20 to help raise awareness and funds for the need for eye protection for children.

Proceeds will go to provide high-quality sunglasses for young people who wear glasses.

For more information on the relay or to sign up, call Dr. Rob Stamm at (308) 737-1904, Stacy Priebe at (309) 340-2610 or Jason Hauxwell, (308) 340-1546.

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