Average Americans spend about seven hours a day locked into a digital screen of some sort. If you think you can do that without affecting your body, brain, and mind, think again.
The blue light emitted from your digital screens interferes with the way your brain functions, disrupts your sleep patterns, affects your hormone production, and even modifies your moods. One of the most notable, and often permanent, effects of blue light is eye damage.
Computer vision syndrome is a real problem that can develop with prolonged use of computers and other digital devices. Here, Dr. Sophia Barnes and our team at Vision Corner in Houston, Texas, explain how and why blue light affects your eyes — and what you can do to protect them.
If you direct light through a prism, you can see the spectrum of colors that combine to create the white light you see. Each individual color has unique characteristics, including its own energy, frequency, and wavelength.
The shortest wavelength is violet, and the longest is red. Near the center of the rainbow spectrum, blue light produces high frequency and energy in relatively short wavelengths.
All light affects your brain, but blue light triggers the most significant response. In particular, it influences your circadian rhythm, or your body clock, which in turn signals the release of certain hormones. When the sun goes down, your brain knows to increase the flow of melatonin so you can get to sleep; when the sun rises, melatonin decreases and serotonin increases along with your energy.
Blue light also affects your eyes. If your only light source was the sun, you’d be fine with moderate exposure and a good pair of sunglasses. But blue light comes from fluorescent lights and digital screens, as well, so you’re inundated with it all day long.
Because your eyes can’t block or reflect the excess blue light, it reaches your retina and wreaks havoc in the form of eye strain, blurry vision, dry eyes, and headaches. We call this computer vision syndrome.
In addition to overexposure to blue light, other variables also contribute to computer vision syndrome, including your work station, work habits, and ambient lighting. If Dr. Barnes diagnoses computer vision syndrome, here are some ways to overhaul your viewing habits to save your eyes and your overall health.
If you spend a lot of time staring at a computer screen, make sure you’re not increasing your exposure to blue light by illuminating your room with bright fluorescent lights. Install a low-wattage bulb in your desk lamp, and draw the blinds when the sun beats in.
The act of staring at a screen — regardless of the lighting — stains your eyes and leads to computer vision syndrome. You can reduce this effect by following the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, change your focus and look at something 20 feet away, and every two hours, take a 20-minute eye break.
A computer monitor that’s too close or too far away from your eyes contributes to computer vision syndrome. Get out a tape measure and make sure your screen is about 20-28 inches from your eyes and only slightly below eye level.
The constant glare from your computer screen is one of the main causes of computer vision syndrome. You may be able to reduce the intensity by installing an anti-glare screen protector.
Another way to ensure the blue light from your screens doesn’t damage your eyes is to make sure your eyeglasses have an anti-glare coating. At Vision Corner, we offer blue light glasses with TechShield® Blue AB for all types of eyeglasses.
This protects your eyes from ultraviolet light and glare, reflects and redirects blue light, and prevents it from reaching your retinas. Bonus: TechShield Blue AB also protects your eyeglass lenses from scratches.
It may seem like a no-brainer because blinking is an involuntary movement, but when you work at a computer all day, you tend to blink much less, which leads to dry eyes and eye strain — two primary symptoms of computer vision syndrome. Keep a sticky note on your desk, set an alarm, or make intentional blinking part of your scheduled breaks to make sure you keep your eyes moist and healthy.
If you're already experiencing computer vision syndrome, Dr. Barnes may recommend vision therapy — strategic exercises that retrain your eyes and brain to work together and resolve any problems you have focusing or tracking. To schedule an appointment, call us at 713-623-2000 today.