Like so many others I wear glasses. I have worn them since I was a little kid. I could not remember, so I had to call and ask my mother how old I was when I got my first pair. She says that I was 7. That is pretty young. However, my girls have followed my lead. They just turned 10 and they have both worn glasses for a couple of years. Now I not only have to worry about the effects of technology on my own eyes, but my kids too.
I do wonder if my boys will also follow suit. Hopefully they will take after their father and be lucky enough to have 20/20 vision.
The Effect of Technology on Our Eyes
With the amount of technology out today we now have the added worry of the effects of computer screens, tablets, smartphones, and more on our eyes. As as new VSP ambassador, I recently had the opportunity to ask Dr. Gary Morgan, a VSP Vision Care optometrist, a few questions about just what all these fancy devices can do to our eyes. We also talked about UNITY BluTech lenses. This unique lens composition blocks harmful blue light and UVA/UVB radiation emitted by electronic devices.
What problems or damages do you see in the eyes of workers who sit in front of computer screens all day?
In recent years, Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) has gotten the attention of eye doctors and the media regarding the symptoms that it produces, such as dry eyes, headaches and neck pain. While these symptoms may range from bothersome to debilitating, they can be managed with artificial tears, glare control measures and proper ergonomics. However, there is a much more dangerous problem with computer and digital device use. The lighting produced by electronic screens has a high amount of blue wavelength light, which has been linked to serious health and eye conditions.
While the effects of UV light are well-known (sunburn, skin cancer), UV light does not sufficiently reach the back of the eye or retina as it is blocked by the cornea and lens. While UV is a cause of certain eye conditions, they are generally treatable and preventable by wearing sunglasses. Visible light, on the other hand (think of the colors of the rainbow), does reach the retina, and the blue wavelength is damaging with the potential to cause blindness.
We are exposed to more blue light today than we have been at any other time in history due to the proliferation of electronic screens. In addition, we are using much more fluorescent lighting for energy conservation, the “greening of America.” These light sources have a high blue spectral emission. Since some electronic devices are held close to our eyes, such as smart phones and tablets, the intensity of the blue light is even greater. Over time, this exposure leads to retinal damage, including Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), which is the leading cause of blindness for people over age 50.
How long is too long for us to stare at a screen without a break?
For traditional CVS symptoms, such as dryness and fatigue, remember the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, spend 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away. Blinking, lubricating drops and just moving away from the computer for a couple of minutes can also help. However, how long is too long to work in a machine shop without safety glasses? As the answer is obvious—one should never work in a machine shop without safety glasses—the same can be said for those who work in front of a computer. UNITY BluTech lenses are the new safety glasses for computer use; they filter harmful blue light.
Benefits of UNITY BluTech Lenses
Unlike other lenses, UNITY BluTech lenses filter harmful blue light—have over regular lenses? They contain two natural blue-filtering properties that are found in the human eye: Ocular Lens Pigment and Melanin. However, our eyes do not naturally contain enough of these substances to protect us from today’s blue light-rich environment; we are exposed to more blue light now than at any point in history.
By adding Ocular Lens Pigment and Melanin to spectacle lenses, our eyes can now be protected from blue light in the way that nature intended.
Is blue light blocking technology available in contacts?
This technology is not currently available in contact lenses. However, contact lens wearers can get UNITY BluTech lenses without prescription to wear over their contacts when working with an electronic screen; again, think safety glasses. Additionally, UNITY BluTech lenses are available as outdoor sunglass lenses (the sky is blue!) that can be worn over contacts or made into a prescription. Ask your eye doctor if you’re concerned about potential blue light damage to your eyes, particularly if you’re at risk for AMD.
Does wearing contacts instead of glasses cause any problems in the eye?
As long as people abide by proper hygiene rules—taking their contacts out at night and cleaning them daily—wearing contacts instead of glasses will not cause any problems in the eye. However, if these important safety precautions are not taken, people can get very serious, and potentially blinding, infections. Talk with your eye doctor if you’d like to wear contacts or feel like your contacts aren’t comfortable.
Are you seeing an increase in eye problems from smartphone and tablet use, or is it mostly just computers that cause problems?
Children, seniors, post-cataract patients and those with a family history of AMD who persistently use digital devices do have an increased risk for damage from blue light. Computers aren’t the only culprits—pretty much anything with a screen emits blue light. Damage from blue light is cumulative, so we are not seeing an acute rise in problems like AMD. However, with our aging population and unprecedented levels of blue light exposure, the prediction is that we will see AMD reach epidemic proportions in the coming years.
At what age should adults start going to the optometrist more often to be checked for signs of age-related macular degeneration?
Adults should go to the optometrist every year to have the health of their eyes checked and to look for signs of conditions like AMD.
What are some tips for telling if our children may have eye problems or strain from using electronic devices?
If your children are squinting or have irritated, red and/or watery eyes, they could have eye problems as a result of using electronic devices. Also, if your children have trouble keeping their place when they’re reading or if they’re using a finger to read, it could be the sign of a bigger eye condition, and you should consult your eye doctor promptly.
What are some other things that we can do to exercise our eyes and keep them healthy from day to day?
In addition to always remembering the 20-20-20 rule, there are a few other things that you can do to keep your eyes in tip-top shape. Blinking is the best way to keep your eyes refreshed, but a few other exercises include:
- Squinting a couple of times will put pressure on the oil glands in your eyelids, supplying the oil component of our tears.
- Eating fresh vegetables and fruits each day. These contain carotenoid pigments, critical for macular function, and can be helpful in preventing eye disease.
- Wearing UNITY BluTech lenses (both indoor and outdoor versions) will help protect your eyes from harmful light and radiation.
Anything else that you would like us to know about UNITY BluTech lenses?
If you’re one of those people who is on the laptop or tablet until you fall asleep, keep a pair of UNITY BluTech lenses by the bed. Studies have shown that blue light exposure within a few hours of sleeping can inhibit the natural sleep cycle.
For more informations about the effects of technology on your eyes, check out the VSP website.
Disclosure: This post is part of my involvement in the compensated VSP Ambassador program. All opinions are my own.