Our Optometrist Answers Your Questions About Blue Light and Computer Vision Syndrome
Q: What is Blue Light?
Blue light is the portion of the visible light spectrum with the shortest wavelengths (400 to 500 nanometers) and with the highest energy. Sources of blue light include sunlight, fluorescent light, LED light, computer monitors, smartphones and tablet screens.
Q: What are the negative effects of Blue Light?
The eye does not block blue light well. In fact, almost all visible blue light passes through the cornea and lens, and reaches the retina, the neurosentive tissue at the back of the eye. Early research shows that too much exposure to blue light could lead to digital eye strain and damage the retina, which can cause vision problems like age-related macular degeneration. Furthermore, blue light affects the body’s circadian rhythm, our natural sleep-wake cycle. Excessive blue light exposure late at night from digital screens can make it harder to fall asleep and interrupt sleep patterns.
Q: How can we counter the negative effects?
There are a few ways to counter the negative effects of blue light:
- Decrease the amount of time spent in front of digital screens and take frequent breaks to give your eyes a rest.
- Special lens coatings and tints are available that block blue light from digital devices. These lenses are specifically designed to filter out blue light and increase contrast.
- Limit your screen time in the two to three hours before you go to bed.
- Use blue light screen filters that are available for smartphones, tablets, and computer screens.
Q: What can an OD do to help me in this area?
Talk to your optometrist about options to protect your family and your eyes from blue light. They can make recommendations about which type of vision correction and lens features best suit your needs for viewing your computer and other digital devices.
Q: What is the relationship between Computer Vision Syndrome and Blue Light?
The American Optometric Association describes Computer vision syndrome (also known as digital eye strain) as a group of eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer, tablet, e-reader and cell phone use. Common symptoms include eye strain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes as well as neck and shoulder pain. Blue light is one of the contributors to Computer Vision Syndrome, along with poor lighting, glare, poor seating posture and uncorrected refractive error.
Q: How can I relieve eye strain from being on the computer all day?
To relieve eyestrain from being at the computer all day, the American Optometric Association suggests taking frequent breaks by following the 20-20-20 rule. Take a 20 second break to view something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Q: How do you diagnose Computer Vision Syndrome?
Computer Vision Syndrome can be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye examination. Your optometrist will conduct in depth testing such as:
- obtaining a thorough patient history to determine any symptoms you are experiencing, how many hours a day you use on a computer, and the distance from your eyes to your screen
- perform a refraction to determine the appropriate lens power needed to compensate for any refractive errors and
- test how the eyes focus, move and work together.
Q: How do you treat Computer Vision Syndrome?
To treat Computer Vision Syndrome, your optometrists will make various suggestions to improve your symptoms and prevent new problems. These include:
- Making sure your glasses meet the demands of your job. Your optometrist will recommend lens options that are specifically designed for viewing your computer, such as enhanced readers and computer glasses. There are also special lens coatings, such as anti-reflective and blue light filters, that can decrease glare and increase contrast.
- Taking rest breaks by following the 20-20-20 rule to give the eyes a break from long periods of computer use.
- Adopting a correct sitting posture. Optimally, the computer screen should be 20 degrees below eye level as most people find it more comfortable to view a computer when the eyes are looking downward. Your computer chair should be comfortably padded and conform to your body. Use a foot rest to maintain good posture and a wrist rest to minimise carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Identifying sources of glare and positioning your computer screen where the glare is minimised. You may also turn off any offending lights, draw curtains or blinds and adjust your brightness setting.
- Making an effort to blink frequently. When we use our computers, our blink rate reduces significantly. This can lead to dry eyes. To relieve the discomfort, use artificial tears and remember to blink.
Q: Can kids have Computer Vision Syndrome?
Kids who stare at tablets or use computers during the day at school can have Computer Vision Syndrome, especially if the lighting and their posture is less than ideal. It is thus important to take your children for their annual eye examinations to help prevent or reduce the development of symptoms associated with Computer Vision Syndrome.
Q: If I wear glasses or contacts can I still have Computer Vision Syndrome?
Yes, individuals who are already wearing glasses or contact lenses may find that their current prescription does not provide optimal vision for viewing a computer. Some people may bend towards the screen, or tilt their heads at odd angles to view their computer screen because their glasses or contact lenses aren’t designed for viewing distances of their computer screen. These postures can result in back, shoulder and neck pain. Furthermore, some computer users experience problems with eye focusing or eye coordination that cannot be adequately corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses. In this case, your optometrist may recommend a program of vision therapy to treat these specific problems.
Q: Anything else you wish to say about Blue Light and what your practice does in that area
Our eye doctors are available for a comprehensive eye examination if you are experiencing headaches, eyestrain, blurred vision, or eye irritation, all of which are common effects of Computer Vision Syndrome. Book an appointment with your eye doctor to discuss how to best protect your family and your eyes from blue light.