Everyone is spending more time on digital devices now. That is why we at Collinsville Primary Eyecare decided to write this article addressing a common question. How much screen time is too much screen time? Parents ask me this every day and I am going to cover common follow up questions. So, turn on your blue light filter or get out your blue blocker glasses and let’s dive into this article.
Computer Vision Syndrome and What it Is
There are lots of symptoms that can arise from too much screen time. These symptoms are typically categorized as computer vision syndrome. These symptoms can include dry/itchy eyes, headache, fluctuations in vision both near and far, and a change in sleep patterns. I have discussed headaches quite a bit in a previous article if you want to learn about other ways your eyes can cause headaches.
Why Does Too Much Screen Time Cause So Many Problems
We were not designed to stare at a screen all day long. Still, that is what we demand from our eyes at work, school, and play. Schools are encouraging more screen time currently with virtual learning. Our work may be remote right now and thus having us spend all day in front of a screen. And if those things aren’t enough we are probably getting most of our entertainment right now from digital devices. After all, quite a bit of the world is still shut down or severely limited.
The Eye Muscles As a Part of the Too Much Screen Time Problem
First off, computers, tablets, and phones will mess with our eyes is by being so close to our face. Our medial rectus eye muscles are forced to pull the eyes inwards towards our nose (think going cross eyed). Next, these muscles must coordinate very small jumps to move from letter to letter. This will tire those muscles quickly. These muscles being tired will cause headaches, double vision, and fluctuations in vision. However, the rectus muscles aren’t the only ones working.
The Ciliary Body
We also have a ciliary body that is flexing to allow us to focus. I like to think of the ciliary body as being similar to my hands. If I clench my fists for a minute it becomes challenging to open my hands. Your hands got kinda “stuck”. This is exactly what happens to that eye muscle when you look at near objects for extended periods of time. That is also why your Eye Doctor mentions taking “eye hygiene breaks.” Essentially, every 20 minutes you should stop for 20 seconds and look and something 20 feet away. We call it the 20/20/20 rule.
Anyways, your ciliary body will get stuck in this flexed position. This is why it isn’t clear the instant you look up and takes a few minutes to clear up.
The Devices Themselves
Blue light is everywhere. The sun gives off quite a bit of blue light, but it is a small percentage of the total light given off by the sun. On the other hand, electronic devices give off more blue light as a percentage of overall light. This blue light stimulates our brain and informs us it is daytime. This is why we can look at a screen for hours and not tire of it. Your eyes can still tire out, but the brain is ready to go. Electronic devices can also slow our natural blink rate according to research. This will make the eyes more dry and with more dryness comes more redness and itch. If we aren’t blinking then we aren’t milking our meibomian glands which can lead to bigger problems in the future.
Eye Doctor and Helping With Too Much Screen Time
Next, we can talk about ways your Eye Doctor can help get rid of the above mentioned problems from eye exam findings.
We can help relax the eye muscles. We can eliminate some of the work on the medial rectus muscles with prism in the glasses. Prism will shift the world, but nothing more. Prism essentially tricks the brain into thinking it needs to look in a specific direction. This brain hack will help relax the medial rectus muscles. Now the eyes will still have to coordinate very tiny movements, but it will be under less stress.
Another way we can help the muscles is by putting in too much plus power or not enough minus power. This will allow the ciliary body to relax and not have to work as much. I often tell patients that I can under correct their distance power to make this happen. Distance will be a little fuzzy by doing this, but near vision will look great. Think of over the counter readers.
What You Can Do to Help With the Strain of Too Much Screen time
The easiest thing we can do is decrease the amount of blue light the electronic devices sends out.
Go into the device settings and adjust the colors. What you are doing here is reducing the blues given off by the electronic device. If your screen starts to turn a bit yellow then you know you are doing it right. They also sell some screen protectors that have a filter built into them. Now, you will have to buy one of these filters for all of your electronic devices. This may require quite a few to be purchased, but they aren’t too expensive anymore. Here is a link to some filters I recommend.
Ridding the World of Blue Light With Blue Blocker Glasses
The way an Eye Doctor can help is by putting the filter directly into your lenses. In other words, making you some blue blocker glasses. There are three ways that can be done at the time I am writing this. But understand that blue blocker glasses work.
Yellow tint as Blue Blocker Glasses
You can have the lenses tinted yellow. This is the cheapest way to get it done and that is the only benefit. The problems are that it is not currently in vogue to have yellow tinted lenses, some lenses don’t absorb the yellow tint, and when looking out everything has a yellow tint.
Blue Cut as Blue Blocker Glasses
The next way is with a material called blue cut. The lens material itself has the blue blocker built directly into the lens. The pro is that it doesn’t give a yellow tint to objects. This is more expensive than the yellow tint and better in my opinion than just tinting. The cons to the blue cut lenses though are that it is currently not available in all lens materials. You also can’t just look at the lenses and know the blue blocker is there. It requires you to trust the company selling you the lenses. You also don’t get as much bang for your buck like you do for the last option.
The last option is by doing a blue blocker no glare coating. Price wise this is a little more expensive than the blue cut but you also get the added benefit of the no glare coating. This coating will help repel dust and dirt also. You can tell this is on the lenses by the lavender colored reflection it gives off if you hold the lenses up to the light. I prefer the no glare and have it in both mine and my wife’s computer glasses. It allows for a better overall appearance to the lenses themselves, and has more benefits than just the blue light protection.
Last Pitch For Blue Blocker Glasses
As a last pitch for the blue blocker glasses you need to remember that this at least allows it to protect your eyes with all electronic devices. Thank you for reading and have a great day.
Where to Buy Blue Light Glasses
You can buy blue light glasses at most places currently. Your Eye Doctor can direct you to how to get the best blue light glasses.