With society’s increasing reliance on technology in everyday life, people are spending more and more time looking at screens. It starts at a young age with tablets and phones and continues into adulthood, with screen times increasing as many people rely on screens for their jobs. Screen time tracking apps and features allow us greater insight into the amount of time we spend looking at a screen and even offer resources to reduce screen time. But, it seems unlikely that overall screen consumption is going to decrease anytime soon.
The bad news
Too much screen time can have several negative effects on the human brain and body, including:
- Eye strain and headaches
- Insomnia and poor sleep
- Social media addiction
- Neck, shoulder and back pain
- Tendonitis, carpal tunnel, and other repetitive-use injuries
- Sedentary lifestyle, which has been linked to heart disease, obesity, and other problems
As eye care professionals, our primary concern is the effect that screen time has on the eyes. Much of the negative impact of screen time lies in overexposure to blue light. “Blue light is the portion of the visible light spectrum with the shortest wavelengths (400 to 500 nanometers or nm) and with the highest energy, hence it is often referred to as high-energy visible (HEV) light,” according to Dr. David Friess, OD, FAAO, of the Eyesafe Vision Health Advisory Board.
Blue light has been linked to macular degeneration and sleep disruption. “We get constant exposure to blue light from ambient sunlight, computer screens, tablets, and mobile phones,” said Dr. Rohit Varma, MD, MPH, founding director of Southern California Eyecare and Vision Research Institute.
“The brain associates blue light as daytime, so if a person is exposed to blue light for long periods of time during the night, blue light makes it more difficult for us to fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning,” explains Varma.
Blue light exposure also contributes to eye strain, headaches, and disorientation. Its effects can range from mild to severe. For professionals whose jobs rely on screens, it is often difficult to reduce screen time, leading to unavoidable blue light damage to the eyes.
The good news
Fortunately, as more people recognize the issues associated with excessive blue light exposure, companies are developing ways to combat digital eye strain. One popular solution is blue light glasses or lenses that reduce blue light exposure.
“Blue light lenses filter out blue light by blocking the transmission of a specific segment or range of wavelengths,” said Dr. Sheri Rowen, MD, FACS, of the Eyesafe Vision Health Advisory Board.
“The lenses are designed to help reduce the occurrence of digital eye strain and avoid circadian rhythm cycle disruption, affecting sleep and overall well-being”, states Rowen. While older blue light lenses often had a visible yellow tint, more recent lenses have only a very slight tint or appear to have no tint at all.
Regular eye exams for patients can help to determine any blue light damage or the need for blue light lenses. As eye care professionals, we understand the importance of keeping patients healthy and happy. Visit Allentown Optical’s Services page to see how we help you serve your patients.