What is Digital Eye Strain?

Digital Eye Strain is the physical discomfort associated with spending long periods of time staring at a digital screen. It has become more recognised as a medical condition as usage of devices emitting artificial light have become increasingly popular and prolonged over the past decade.

What causes it?

Eye Strain, in its simplest form, is associated with staring at an object at short, fixed distance for a long period of time. When you are paying attention to and reading information, your eyes are repeating the same back and forth movement over and over again, creating stress on the muscles of the eye.

This would not be so bad if you were reading a book or newspaper, but the addition of bright glare from the computer screen makes the onset of Digital Eye Strain more intense and painful. Sharpness and visual contrast are affected by this flickering glare and your eye muscles must work harder to focus on the text and images they're seeing. 

What is also a major contributing factor to the discomfort of Digital Eye Strain, is the blue light emitted from the screens of digital devices. Blue light is what's known as a HEV light, or high-energy visible light, with short wavelengths of 400-500 nanometers. Any light with wavelengths shorter than this are classified as the commonly known and dangerous Ultraviolet Light. But studies have shown that blue light can be dangerous also, with some suggesting that it may damage the cells of the retina, leading to conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). 

In the short term, its high-frequency and short wavelengths contribute greatly to the difficulties we have telling our eyes to repeat the same movement in front of a screen. By exposing ourselves to this blue light, we're likely to experience the symptoms of Digital Eye Strain, described below.

What are the symptoms?

Regular and prolonged usage of digital screen is associated with the following symptoms. Over 90% of workers who spent at least 6 hours a day at a screen reported to have experienced at least one of these.

  • Eye Fatigue and tired eyes
  • Sleep disruption
  • Eye Strain
  • Headaches
  • Dry and itchy eyes
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Blurred vision
  • General fatigue

Sleep disruption in particular is becoming a major problem amongst a digital generation. A recent study from the University of Houston in Texas studied the effects of blue light on the melatonin levels (sleep-inducing hormone) of subjects. The study concluded that those who wore blue-light blocking glasses showed a 58% increase in melatonin production, and hence found it easier to fall asleep.

While no conclusive proof has shown that prolonged screen use leads to long-term damage, there is certainly growing evidence from researchers that suggests it may. A paper published by the American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF) reports that "the blue rays of the spectrum seem to accelerate age-related macular degeneration (AMD) more than any other rays in the spectrum". While a Harvard Medical paper states that "high energy visible (HEV) blue light has been identified for years as the most dangerous light for the retina."

How can I prevent it?

What is important is that we recognise the clear links between screen exposure and , at best, eye discomfort, and, at worst, cell damage in the eye. We must then take measures to lower our risk and ensure that our working days are spent with some degree of visual comfort.

  • Try and maintain further distance from the screen and improve your posture so that the monitor is slightly below eye level
  • Take a break and use the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look away from the screen and focus on something 20 feet away, for 20 seconds. 
  • There is a variety of software programs that promise to drain the blue light from your screen and, in turn, decrease your susceptibility. However, these programs will distort the screens colour and will not follow you from device to device
  • Ambr screen glasses block over 55% of harmful blue light and are coated with a premium anti-reflective layer. Our glasses protect your eyes from digital eye strain and ensure a more comfortable and healthy working day.

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