The youth today are increasingly falling victim to excessive screen time due to a confluence of technological advancements, societal changes and shifting lifestyles. This phenomenon is driven by the proliferation of smartphones, tablets, computers and gaming consoles that have placed a multitude of screens at the fingertips of young people. These devices offer entertainment, social interaction, educational resources and a window to the digital world. Social media platforms have become integral to modern socialization (Lucena, J.M.S.D., Cheng, L.A., Cavalcante, T.L.M., Silva, V.A.D. and Farias Júnior, J.C.D., 2015. Prevalence of excessive screen time and associated factors in adolescents. Revista Paulista de Pediatria, 33, pp.407-414). Young individuals use these platforms to connect with peers, share their lives, and stay updated on news and trends. The constant stream of content encourages prolonged screen engagement.
The educational landscape has also evolved with the integration of technology in classrooms and remote learning, especially accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, students are spending more time in front of screens for educational purposes. In addition to these, video games, streaming services and online content offer immersive and captivating experiences. The allure of these platforms often leads to extended screen sessions for leisure and entertainment. High screen time and lack of proper eye care can have a significant impact on eye health, leading to various eye-related problems and discomfort.
Impact of high screen time on eye health
Digital Eye Strain: Prolonged screen use can cause digital eye strain, characterized by symptoms like eye fatigue, dryness, redness and blurred vision (Kaur, K., Gurnani, B., Nayak, S., Deori, N., Kaur, S., Jethani, J., Singh, D., Agarkar, S., Hussaindeen, J.R., Sukhija, J. and Mishra, D., 2022. Digital eye strain-a comprehensive review. Ophthalmology and therapy, 11(5), pp.1655-1680). Staring at screens for extended periods reduces the frequency of blinking, leading to dry eyes. For more information on this, follow DocTubeTM.
Blue Light Exposure: Screens emit blue light, which can disrupt the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle and cause sleep disturbances when used before bedtime. It may also contribute to retinal damage over time.
Increased Risk of Myopia: Research suggests that excessive screen time, especially in childhood, may be associated with a higher risk of nearsightedness or myopia.
Decreased Blink Rate: When using screens, people tend to blink less frequently, which can lead to dry eyes and eye discomfort (Muntz, A., Turnbull, P.R., Kim, A.D., Gokul, A., Wong, D., Tsay, T.S.W., Zhao, K., Zhang, S., Kingsnorth, A., Wolffsohn, J.S. and Craig, J.P., 2022. Extended screen time and dry eye in youth. Contact Lens and Anterior Eye, 45(5), p.101541).
Eye Fatigue and Discomfort: Prolonged screen use can lead to eye strain, headaches, and a feeling of tired or heavy eyes.
Digital Device Dependency: Excessive screen time may lead to dependency on digital devices, making it challenging to reduce usage and causing further eye strain.
Eye care tips
A balanced diet plays a crucial role in maintaining optimal eye health. Incorporating nutrient-rich foods can help prevent various eye conditions and promote good vision throughout life. Key nutrients for eye health include:
Vitamin A: Found in foods like carrots, sweet potatoes and spinach, Vitamin A is essential for maintaining healthy vision and preventing night blindness.
Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, strawberries and bell peppers are rich in Vitamin C, which helps reduce the risk of cataracts and supports blood vessels in the eyes (Rasmussen, H.M. and Johnson, E.J., 2013. Nutrients for the aging eye. Clinical interventions in aging, pp.741-748).
Vitamin E: Nuts, seeds and leafy greens contain vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps protect the eyes from age-related damage.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fish like salmon and trout are high in Omega-3s, which help maintain the integrity of the retina and prevent dry eyes.
Smoking poses significant risks to eye health and is a known contributor to several eye conditions. For example, smoking doubles the risk of age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of severe vision loss in older adults. Smokers are more likely to develop cataracts, a clouding of the eye’s lens that impairs vision (Zhang, X., Kahende, J., Fan, A.Z., Li, Y., Barker, L., Thompson, T.J., Saaddine, J.B. and Mokdad, A.H., 2011. Peer reviewed: smoking and visual impairment among older adults with age-related eye diseases. Preventing chronic disease, 8(4)). It may exacerbate dry eye symptoms, causing discomfort and irritation. Smoking can also damage the optic nerve, increasing the risk of glaucoma. Therefore, the best eye care advice you can follow is to quit smoking completely. This will boost your eye and overall health.
Wear Blue Glasses for Glare Protection
Blue light glasses, also known as blue-blocking or computer glasses are designed to filter out a portion of the high-energy, short-wavelength blue light emitted by digital screens and artificial lighting. Benefits of wearing blue glasses include:
Reduced Eye Strain: Blue light glasses can alleviate digital eye strain by reducing glare and minimizing the need for excessive focusing adjustments.
Improved Sleep: Exposure to blue light from screens, especially in the evening, can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm. Blue glasses are an effective eye care strategy as they can help mitigate this disruption and improve sleep quality (Lawrenson, J.G., Hull, C.C. and Downie, L.E., 2017. The effect of blue‐light blocking spectacle lenses on visual performance, macular health and the sleep‐wake cycle: a systematic review of the literature. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, 37(6), pp.644-654).
Wearing blue glasses is a proactive measure to protect eye comfort and potentially minimize the long-term effects of screen-related light exposure. However, it is essential to balance their use with periodic breaks from screens and maintaining overall eye health practices.
Practice the 20-20-20 Rule
To reduce digital eye strain and maintain eye comfort during extended screen time, adopt the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus on something at least 20 feet away (Alrasheed, S.H. and Alghamdi, W.M., 2020. Impact of an educational intervention using the 20/20/20 rule on Computer Vision Syndrome. African Vision and Eye Health, 79(1), pp.1-6). This simple practice helps relax the eye muscles, reduce eye fatigue and prevent long-term discomfort associated with prolonged screen use.
Stay Hydrated for Dry Eye Prevention
Proper hydration is essential for maintaining the tear film in your eyes, which helps prevent dry eyes. For proper eye care, drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day to keep your body and eyes well-hydrated. Additionally, consider using a humidifier in dry indoor environments, especially during the winter months, to add moisture to the air and alleviate dry eye symptoms.