Children and Computer Vision Syndrome

Little boy playing on a smart phonePeople are always touting the benefits and the risks of social media, videogames, television, and other screen activities. It’s common to hear about someone giving up social media for a period of time just to see if they are able to kick what they consider an ‘addiction.’ New Year’s resolutions are often to read more and spend less time at a computer or on a smartphone. These may seem like grown-up problems, but adults and teens aren’t the only demographics spending a large part of their daily routine behind a screen. Children barely old enough to move a mouse are using computers and devices for recreation and learning every day.

In 2009, kids in grades 7–12 reported spending an average of more than 90 minutes a day just sending or receiving texts on cell phones. In 2011, 50% of children under eight-years-old reported having access to a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet. Children under two watch 53 minutes a day of television.

Should all screen time and computer usage be cause for concern? Not quite. Consider this: studies have found that children who use a computer at school and at home perform better on tests of school readiness, visual motor skills, gross motor, and cognitive development. This positive effect seems to diminish if you look at children’s screen time beyond physician-recommended daily limits, however. Excessive screen time does not help children learn, and overuse has been shown to put children at risk for vision problems.

Children aged 8–18 reported in 2009 that they spent more than seven hours a day devoted to “entertainment media” including computers and videogames. That makes screen time a full-time job! Pediatric eye doctors are warning parents that this sort of heavy screen time is putting children at risk for early nearsightedness, among other possible issues.

According to the National Eye Institute, over the past 30 years the prevalence of nearsightedness has increased from 25 percent to over 41 percent. This is an increase of more than 66 percent. No one can be certain if this increase is caused by screen time, but many professionals are concerned that there may be a connection.

The longer children are exposed to a computer screen, the greater their risk is for developing computer vision syndrome. Computer vision syndrome is the term used to describe problems associated with focusing on an electronic display for excessive, uninterrupted amounts of time. The risk is increased because children’s eyes are not as well-developed as adults. It’s easier for children to experience these problems because they often lose track of time, are assigned lots of homework to do on the computer, or may not realize that they should be taking frequent breaks. Additionally, children are notorious for sitting very close to screens even if they have perfect vision—a position that strains the eyes and the rest of the body.

Parents should pay careful attention to how long a child spends with electronics. Set limits and help them develop good habits for how to use their devices. Talk to your eye care professional to discuss your child’s media habits and determine if you should change how they interact with electronics for optimal eye health.

April Showers Bring May (and More) Allergies

Man dealing with seasonal allergiesSpring has arrived! The birds are chirping, the days are getting longer, and suddenly you’re experiencing itchy and watery eyes. Seasonal allergies affect an estimated 50 million people in the United States, making the spring season a little (or a lot) less pleasant for many Americans. Up to 30 percent of adults and up to 40 percent of children report having problems with seasonal allergies. That’s no small amount of people with itchy eyes and runny noses!

Spring is what comes to mind when most people think of seasonal allergies, but allergies are not limited to April, May, and June alone. Seasonal allergies can be a disruption almost any time of year, depending on what causes your allergies and where you live. Learning how to cope with seasonal allergies and treat the symptoms can improve your daily life and make nice weather more enjoyable.

How do you combat seasonal allergies? There are some tips you can use to fight seasonal allergies. First, know what triggers them. You’re not going to frolic in a field of goldenrod if you know that it causes an allergic reaction. Ask your physician if he or she can help you narrow down what is causing your discomfort.

The most common seasonal allergens are grass, pollen, and mold. For an allergy sufferer, avoiding these allergens is the first approach to minimize symptoms. It can be difficult to avoid them, however, because they are very common in most parts of the country. Unless you’re able to move somewhere without allergens (or maybe you can live in a bubble), you’ll have to consider some additional options.

Make sure to protect your eyes. Sunglasses can help keep pollen and allergens from entering the eye to an extent, but they also minimize strain on your eyes that can be worsened during allergy season. Protection can also come in the form of wearing a protective mask while doing things like gardening or yard work.

If you must go outside to work or exercise, try to do it early in the morning or later in the evening. These are times when pollen counts are typically lower than during the middle hours of the day. Also, check pollen counts. Many weather apps and sites offer pollen counts as a way to inform allergy sufferers of the worst days for allergies, and other days when it might not be so bad.

Talk to your doctor about an over-the-counter remedy. Not a lot of people report mowing the lawn as their favorite thing to do, but gardening can be very satisfying, and a fun way to get dirty, make your yard more beautiful, or even save money by growing your own food. Seasonal allergies make rustling around in the weeds nearly impossible, however. No one wants to spend their time in nature rubbing their eyes! Your physician can give you advice on medical treatments for allergies and medication that may be available to help you keep your routine and pursue your hobbies without too much disruption.

On days when the pollen count is high, sufferers may choose to stay inside. Itchy eyes can be painful, making it difficult to accomplish everyday tasks like working on a computer screen, watching TV, or even just focusing on small details for a prolonged period of time. With many people working behind a computer for their job, just imagine the productivity that could be gained if eye-related allergies were eliminated! Thankfully, you can help keep indoor air quality clear so you can live comfortably and get your work done indoors. Simply try an air purifier. They help to reduce allergens from the air, and keep those pesky particles out of your nose and eyes. Also, make sure the air filters on your heating and cooling units are changed or cleaned regularly. Special filters exist for allergy sufferers, and they can help improve indoor air quality when changed regularly.

In addition to cleaning the air, wash the dog, your hair, and your clothes. Pollen and other allergens can easily stick to clothes, pets, and even you. A regular wash will prevent allergens from sticking around this allergy season.

The best way to combat the change in seasons is to avoid the allergen as much as possible, refrain from itching your eyes, and use artificial tears to wash away airborne allergens when necessary. Talk to your physician and eye care professional if seasonal allergies are getting in your way.

Blue Light in Focus: Are Your Eyes at Risk?

Couple being exposed to high energy blue lightMore and more patients are asking about how blue light may be affecting their health. With stories about blue light exposure and possible risks frequently in the news, it’s important to understand what high energy blue light is and why you should protect your eyes.

What is High Energy Blue Light?
Blue light is simply part of the spectrum of light that we can see. The “high-energy” part of blue light refers to the intensity and is based on where it falls on the spectrum. Daylight is high in this type of light, and it’s what wakes us up when we rise in the morning as we experience sunlight. Blue light is crucial for our processing of color, and in the right balance it can be good for our health to set our circadian clock and sleep/wake cycles.

Most patients have heard about blue light because media articles frequently highlight certain kinds of blue light as causing sleep disturbances. Americans are notoriously bad sleepers, with many vices and personal habits that can interfere with getting a full night’s rest. Increased exposure to blue light and especially screen time with electronic devices at night are purportedly the biggest offenders.

When are We Exposed?
The reality is that blue light comes from many sources. The largest source of high-energy blue light is the sun, and electronic screens and indoor CFL/LED lighting emit a fraction of what the sun emits. Still, with more light sources relying on blue light for intensity and clarity, it leaves people wondering if they should opt for eyewear that reflects some of the higher energy rays.

Most people are aware that we have to protect our eyes from bright sunlight because it can cause eye problems as we age. The issue with blue light exposure is that high-energy blue light alone doesn’t make us uncomfortable like glaring sunlight does, so few people opt for special glasses to be protected.

How do I Reduce My Risk?
The good news is that there are options for people who would like to block or filter some of the high-energy blue light waves that are linked to eye health problems. Blue light blocking lenses or blue-reflecting lens treatments may help you with other problems, like eye fatigue and sleep disturbances, but the main concern is updating your eyewear and your habits to help lower your risk for cataracts and macular degeneration.

Talk to us if you have questions about what products we carry, and how your everyday eyewear can ensure your eyes are comfortable and protected!

Preventing Computer Vision Syndrome

Woman suffering from computer vision syndromeIt’s the end of the week and you’ve only got a few hours left before the weekend. As you try to finish the last of your tasks, you find yourself unable to focus—not just mentally, but physically. You have trouble seeing the screen in front of you. Maybe your vision is blurry or your eyes start to burn. These are symptoms of computer vision syndrome.

Computer vision syndrome is simply the name given to a group of symptoms and problems associated with overuse of computers and strained eyes from excessive computer use. It’s becoming a more common problem as more people work in offices behind computers, and rely on tablets or smartphones instead of paper. These devices have helped make us more productive with faster communication and easier recordkeeping, but the reliance on electronic screens in front of our faces can also be a problem for our eyes.

There are many things you can do to prevent or relieve the symptoms of computer vision syndrome. If you wear glasses, make sure your prescription is up to date. If you do not wear glasses (or if you wear contact lenses that you’re sure are an appropriate prescription for you) yet still experience discomfort while on a computer, computer glasses may be what you’re looking for.

Computer glasses are different than traditional eyeglasses or reading glasses. Due to such a short distance between your eyes and the computer screen, distance eyeglasses and reading eyeglasses may not be as effective for your eyes. They’re not necessarily meant for focusing for longer periods on the intermediate zone of vision. Made specially for viewing a computer screen, computer glasses help you focus on this very zone where your monitor sits, making daily use much more comfortable.

Without a proper prescription or an aid like computer glasses, those experiencing blurred vision may end up leaning forward in order to see. This can negatively affect posture and cause even more strain on your body. In addition to eye health, it’s very important to have a healthy workspace and comfortable posture.

Because computer glasses have a modified lens, they give you the most comfortable view of your computer screen. For maximum viewing quality, the lenses should include anti-reflective coating. Tinted computer lenses are also recommended in order to block out blue light that is emitted from computer screens.

With a decrease in eyestrain, and no more blurred vision or headaches, it’s obvious how much computer glasses can help make you feel better and more productive. Ask your eye care professional if you’re interested in learning more about computer glasses and how they can help prevent computer vision syndrome.

Contact Us