With many industries turning to the use of computers at work, computer eye strain has become a major job-related issue. Studies indicate that over 50% of people who work on computers experience eye strain and other bothersome visual symptoms throughout their day. Although these symptoms typically go away when you are done working, they can greatly disrupt your productivity and satisfaction throughout the day. To help you better understand how computers can damage your eyes, we put together some important facts we think you should know.
Sunlight is made up of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet light. When combined, they become the white light we see. Each of these colors has a different energy and wavelength. Rays on the red end of the spectrum have longer wavelengths and less energy while blue rays have shorter wavelengths and more energy. Light that looks white, like the background of most computers screens, has a large blue component which can expose the eye to higher levels of energy.
Blue light is actually needed for good health; it boosts alertness, helps memory, improves cognitive function, and elevates mood. Blue light is also responsible for regulating circadian rhythm, the body’s natural wake and sleep cycle. Exposure to blue light during daytime hours helps maintain a healthful circadian rhythm, but too much exposure to blue light late at night can disrupt the wake and sleep cycle, leading to problems sleeping and daytime tiredness.
While the largest source of blue light is the sun, there are many other sources that we subject ourselves to more often during the day. Computer monitors, smartphones and tablets, flat screen LED televisions screens, and fluorescent and LED light bulbs all produce excessive amounts of blue light.
Most visible blue light passes through the cornea and lens to reach the retina. Overexposure to this type of light may affect vision and can prematurely age the eyes. Too much exposure to blue light from computer screens and digital devices can cause digital eye strain. Symptoms of eyestrain include sore or irritated eyes and difficulty focusing. Fatigue, dry eyes, bad lighting, or how you sit in front of the computer can cause eyestrain. Continued exposure to blue light over time can lead to damaged retinal cells, contributing to vision problems like age-related macular degeneration.
Eye strain is often caused by excessively bright light from outdoor sunlight or from harsh interior lighting. When you use a computer, the ambient lighting should be about half as bright as most typical offices. To combat this eye strain, try balancing the brightness of the computer screen with that of the room. Adjust the blinds, curtains, and any other sources of light to control glare on your screen throughout the day. If possible, position your computer monitor or screen so windows are to the side, instead of in front or behind it. Remember to re-adjust the lighting back when reading text in a book or on paper.
Adjusting the display settings of your computer can also help reduce eye fatigue and strain. Modifying the text size and contrast of font on the background, especially when reading or composing long documents, can help make reading a lot easier. Usually, black print on a white background is the best combination for comfortable reading. While you are adjusting the settings on your computer, play around with the color temperature. Reducing the color temperature of your display lowers the amount of blue light emitted for better long-term viewing. In some cases, software for day/night time color temperature is available, otherwise it is typically on the computer monitor itself.
Blinking is very important when working at a computer; this action moistens your eyes to prevent dryness and irritation. When working at a computer, people blink about one-third as often as they normally do. Many of those blinks during computer work are only partial lid closures, adding to the irritation you may experience when staring at a screen for too long. Tears coating the eye evaporate more rapidly during long non-blinking phases and this can cause dry eyes. Additionally, the air in many office environments is dry, which can increase how quickly your tears evaporate, putting you at greater risk for dry eye problems. Try using a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
Having a routine comprehensive eye exam is the most important thing you can do to prevent or treat computer vision problems. Your eye-related issues may be due to an underlying vision problem that gets worse with computer use. Marano Eye Care is proud to offer comprehensive eye care services and procedures to treat a variety of eye conditions. If you haven’t had an eye exam in over a year or are experiencing any pain or discomfort, contact the Marano Eye Care location nearest you to schedule a visit with one of our amazing optometrists!