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How do your eyes feel after a long day working at the computer? How many hours do you spend on your smart phone, tablet or laptop? It seems that now most of our time is spent on digital devices. Our personal lives as well as our professional lives revolve around digital devices that allow us to do our jobs faster, as well as allowing us to easily communicate. But it comes with a price, and digital devices can do a number on our system. Here are some common conditions that can occur due to prolonged time on digital devices:

· Dry eyes

· Eye strain

· Double vision

· Headaches

· Trouble focusing our vision

As children we grow up spending most of our time outdoors, playing in the playground and chasing our friends outside. Times have changed, and this is no longer our focus. We now spend a lot of our adult time checking our emails on our phones, laptops, or tablets, and we spend our spare time playing games on those same devices. Our world has progressed into a digital world where most of our focus is on digital devices.

This isn’t just true for adults, although a majority of adults spend most of their working days on the computer, or have some sort of computer use throughout the day. Children now are also spending more time on digital devices playing games. These activities can put a strain on multiple systems working in the eye. Spending copious amounts of time on the computer or tablet has not been proven to worsen a prescription. However, spending time playing outdoors has been proven to slow down progression of prescriptions.

So what do these digital devices do to our vision? To begin there are two systems that need to work properly to be able to focus on objects that are not in the distance. The first is our vergence system. This system works to move our eyes inwards and keep them steadily focused on what we are doing. If this system isn’t working properly we can get double vision, eye strain or headaches. The second system is our accommodative system, which brings near objects into focus. If this system is not working properly you can get blurry vision, eye strain and headaches. With prolonged near work this system can actually get stuck, affecting our distance vision. The closer the object, the harder these systems have to work.

Most adults nowadays work on a computer, a tablet or a cell phone at some point during the day, and a lot of us do most of our work on these devices. Along with putting a strain on our vergence and accommodative systems, this high intensity focusing on small devices causes us to blink less. Blinking is very important as it re-wets the surface of the eye. Decreased blinking leads to dryness, which can be felt as stinging, watering eyes. This can lead to reduced comfort of contact lenses as well. There are a few things that you can do to decrease the strain on your vision. One of them is called the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes you’ll want to look up at something 20 ft away for 20 seconds. This will get the opposing muscles working to give some relief to the ones that are working over-time.

Remembering to blink is also important to prevent dryness, and using artificial tear drops will help re-wet the eye and decrease stinging and burning sensations. Reducing the glare coming off the computer screen is also important for comfortable vision, that means make sure your computer screen is positioned correctly. Glasses may also be an option. For those who require reading glasses there is an option to go with a computer lens instead of a reading lens or progressive. This type of lens focuses to give you clear and comfortable vision for the computer and for reading. For the younger generation there are glasses that give a boost in prescription at the lower half of the lens. This boost doesn’t interfere with your distance vision but helps make your near vision more comfortable. Coatings on glasses are very important, anti-glare coatings will reduce the glare coming off the computer or digital devices to help make vision more comfortable. Switching to a different brand of contact lens can also decrease the dryness associated with digital work, and can improve comfort so you can wear your lenses the entire day.

Visiting your local optometrist will help to diagnose any digital eye strain and help get you in a lens that will increase your overall comfort and decrease any symptoms you may be experiencing.

{ Image courtesy Leon Neal-Getty Images: }

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