Can you imagine life before devices? We can’t either. Our culture is steeped in technology use for both work and play. Though convenient, we also need to look at the unintended consequences, like digital eye strain.
Dangers of blue light
Screens can harm our vision and overall health. Anyone who uses electronics for any length of time is at risk if they aren’t proactive about lifestyle modifications.
You might wonder why gadgets pose such a risk in the first place. Experts point to the blue lights emitted by smartphones and other consumer electronics as contributing factors. These lights have a glaring effect on the eyes, which can result in a myriad of symptoms, like dry eyes, blurred vision, headaches, nearsightedness, and eye fatigue.
But it doesn’t end here, unfortunately. Research indicates that blue light decreases the chemical melatonin in the blood. This is the hormone responsible for helping us fall asleep, so it’s important to maintain optimum levels. That’s why sleep experts say it’s a good idea to power down at least two hours before bedtime to give your body and brain time to ease into sleep.
This goes for both adults and children. Younger people may be more prone to digital eye strain because they’re still learning self-control and boundaries. That’s why it’s up to parents to monitor and intervene when necessary.
Protect your eyesight
As far as best practices for the general population, there are several things you can do to protect your vision and safeguard your eyes from the harms of blue light-emitting devices:
1. Break up screen time. Hours in front of a device without a respite can take its toll on your eye health, but that doesn’t mean you can’t exercise discretion. Take breaks every 20 minutes. This is known as the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This will help you get thru a workday while keeping eye health top of mind.
2. Look to the experts. Parents: do you need some advice on how to set and enforce rules concerning screen time? Your optometrist or family practitioner can help. Also, when you set and honor your own parameters for screen time, you are leading by example.
3. Visit your eye doctor regularly. Nothing can substitute for a comprehensive eye exam to evaluate your eye health. Your eye doctor can check for potential signs of deterioration and advise you on the best course of action.
Here are just a few health issues that may be discovered during an eye exam:
Diabetes — Diabetes affects the small capillaries in the retina of the eyes. In the event of diabetic retinopathy, these blood vessels may leak blood or a yellowish fluid. An eye exam can detect such a condition so you can control it and avoid further complications.
Hypertension — While not always the case in all patients, uncontrolled and prolonged high blood pressure can affect the anatomy of the eye, causing blood vessels to appear inflamed.
Autoimmune disorders — If the eye is inflamed, this could be an indication of Lupus or another autoimmune disorder.
High cholesterol — Patients with high triglycerides, i.e., bad cholesterol, may have corneas that appear yellow. Plaques in the blood vessels of the retina can also be markers of elevated cholesterol.
Thyroid disease — The butterfly-shaped gland in the neck affects many of the body’s processes, including metabolism. Bulging eyes or protruding eyeballs can be physical signs of a more acute thyroid condition known as Graves’ Disease.
Cancer— If your eye’s anatomy looks irregular, you may be referred to a specialist to get a second opinion. Ocular melanoma can develop in the cells that make pigmentation in the eye. Your eye exam can even help detect the early stages of skin cancer. Cancerous growths can appear on the eyelid and could even spread to the brain through the eye, so it’s important to be proactive and follow up as needed.
It’s said that the eyes are the window into one’s overall health — and we know that to be true. Taking measures to prevent digital eye strain, along with annual eye examinations is a vital component of maintaining excellent overall health.
An experienced optometrist can work with your medical team to accurately diagnose and treat several health conditions. With a preventive approach to care, you can preserve your eye health and vision as you age. Schedule a comprehensive eye exam today and rest easier knowing an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Know that we’re here to help address any vision-related concerns, too, and can refer you to a specialist as needed. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us here for more information about eye health. We look forward to hearing from you. Remember, only you can put your health first.