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This is What Staring at a Screen All Day Does To Your Eyes

We spend the overwhelming majority of our waking hours staring at screens. What is this doing to our eyes?

By now, you’re probably well aware that your desk job is slowly killing you. As if that weren’t depressing enough, spending day after day sitting and staring at a computer screen can cause other serious health issues.

Eye strain is often overlooked. Though researchers don’t yet know whether prolonged screen time can cause permanent eye damage in the long-term, Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is a collection of vision-related symptoms caused by too much screen time.

Also known as Digital Eye Strain, common symptoms include blurred or double vision, dry or red eyes, eye irritation, neck or shoulder pain, and headaches. Research suggests that between 50 and 90 percent of people who work on a computer show at least some symptoms.

We Spend More Time Glued To Screens Than We Do Sleeping

Americans spend most of their waking hours staring at screens. According to a report, adults in the U.S. logged an average of nearly eleven hours of screen time per day in early 2016. Those ten hours and 39 minutes included time devoted to computers, tablets, smartphones, video games, televisions, and other multimedia devices.

Of course, you don’t have to be a working adult to be affected by CVS. Kids who get too much screen time at school or at home are susceptible too, especially when poor lighting or posture are factors.

Here’s What Happens When You Stare At A Screen

When you’re looking at a screen, your eyes have to constantly focus and re-focus. The longer you repeat this movement, the worse it is. Like any other repetitive motion, reading information or looking at images on a screen requires continuous effort on the part of your eye muscles.

And unlike other things — such as newspapers or books — factors such as flicker, contrast, and glare can make reading on a screen more strenuous.

Though long-term studies have yet to back up the claim, some eye care providers have reason to believe that the blue light from screens may even cause permanent damage to the eyes.

Why? Blue light, also known as high-energy visible (HEV) light, is made up of short-wavelength light. Animal studies have shown that exposure to high levels of HEV light can damage retinal tissue in a way that appears similar to age-related macular degeneration. Researchers still don’t know whether digital devices emit enough blue light to cause vision loss over time.

Quick Fixes For Your Eyes

  • Reduce glare. Dimming your lighting or closing the shades can reduce glare. If you can’t change the lighting in your office, consider installing a glare filter on your monitor.
  • Use the 20-20-20 rule. The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends staring at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes.
  • Adjust your screen settings. Play around with the contrast, font size, and brightness, of your screen. Invert your screen colors if you’re not doing color-sensitive work.
[Image via Shutterstock]

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