Digital Fatigue Syndrome

Technology is constantly changing in the world. Every year, we are introduced to faster, more efficient electronic devices. With smartphones, laptops and tablets, computers, and television used for entertainment, work, and more, it is no surprise that the average American spends four to six hours a day using digital media. Although there are obvious benefits to advancing technology (convenience, communication, etc.), it presents a great threat to the health of our eyes.

At the River’s Edge Optical we are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of prescriptions being filled for eyestrain, headaches, and visual fatigue due to the overuse of digital devices. Our opticians have advanced lens solutions to combat digital eye fatigue and help keep your vision clear and comfortable when working on a computer, iPad, smartphone, or just gaming.  To check out the information on gaming and computer lens technology, click here..

To understand where symptoms of digital eye fatigue are derived from, we need to learn about some of the visual processing systems. The eye focuses on the hard edge of an image, but because digital images are created from tiny pixels, they do not have a clear edge. This causes the eye’s focus to move back and forth, resulting in eyestrain. The muscles in the eye have to constantly correct themselves against their natural behavior. Digital eye fatigue is the most frequent technology-related strain injury, exceeding carpal tunnel and tendonitis.

There is an assortment of symptoms associated with digital eyestrain. Eye redness, irritation, dry eyes, blurred vision, fatigue, back and neck pain, and headaches may be signs of digital eye fatigue. Even though symptoms are not permanent, they can be distracting, uncomfortable, or painful.

Anyone that uses digital media can experience digital eyestrain, but there are certain factors that increase the risk of development. Women are more likely than men to show symptoms, despite approximately equal usage percentages. Individuals that encounter digital media in their work environment are more likely to develop side effects than those that do not. The symptoms can impact the quality of their job performance. Digital eye fatigue is increasing as the popularity of video games continues to rise, and more work offices and schools are converting to paperless, more environmentally friendly systems. From a 2012 survey of almost 10,000 adults in the U.S., over two-thirds who reported regular use of digital media experience symptoms of digital eyestrain.

Fortunately, prevention is relatively simple. The most obvious solution is to limit digital media use, but in today’s world that is not always possible. Adjusting a variety of factors in your environment can help alleviate strain, including reducing glare, cleaning and altering your screen, dimming the surrounding lights, using your device at an appropriate distance, and increasing the text size. It is important to remember to blink often. We blink only one-third as often when staring at a digital screen, which can lead to dryness. The American Optometric Association recommends the “20-20-20 rule” for relief. Take a 20-second break from your device every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away.

Technology is not only advancing in electronics; there are options for eyewear that are specially developed for computer users. Typical lenses are designed to bring objects either near or far into focus, but computers often do not lie in this range. Different prescription eyeglasses may be needed for office or computer use only. Computer eyewear, both prescription and non-prescription, uses specified lenses and tints and coatings to increase contrast, reduce screen glare, and relax eye muscles. Single vision lenses provide a wide field of vision for objects at an intermediate distance, like a computer, while relaxing the eye. Anti-reflective coatings weaken glares from office and outdoor light, and tints block the glare from blue light emitted by digital screens. To check out the information on gaming and computer lens technology, click here.

Many people are not aware of the risk of digital media use in regards to our eye health. As we look to the future, our use of technology will only increase, along with the threat to our eyes. Knowledge of the possibility of digital eye fatigue is the first step in effective prevention. The first step for finding a solution is scheduling a vision medical eye evaluation (Dunes Eye) to receive a tailored vision measurement designed to optimize clarity of vision and comfort. In addition, dry eye syndrome must be ruled out as a contributing factor along with other possible medical eye conditions.