Protecting Your Eyesight: The impact digital screens have on you - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Protecting Your Eyesight: The impact digital screens have on your eyes

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Everywhere you turn, people are constantly looking at a screen.

“Most of my day is consistent of somehow being on an electronic device,” said Sydney McCourt.

Whether it’s a computer, tablet or cell phone, according to doctors, our daily usage could negatively affect our eye health.

“Most of us spend at least 7 hours a day on a computer.  That results in headaches, eye strain, even dry eyes for many individuals,” said Dr. Timothy Wilson.

Doctor Wilson is an optometrist at Isthmus Eye Care.  He says Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is something that affects countless Americans.

“Many times they just don’t understand why these things are taking place,” said Wilson.  “They never link their day to day life with much screen time and symptoms.”

Sydney McCourt is a sophomore at UW Madison.  As the semester comes to an end, she’s spending more and more time in front of a screen.

“Usually my eyes will grow tires, blurry vision after looking at the screen for a while,” said McCourt.  “If you’re in a dark place looking at a bright screen, that can cause some tension in your eyes.”

According to the Wisconsin Optometric Association (WOA), fifty-eight percent of American adults report experiencing eye strain or vision problems as a direct result of using technology, including; computers, tablets, smartphones and other digital devices.

“My eyes get really dry, so by the end of the day which is around 4:00 p.m. from classes I have to go home and take out my contacts and put on glasses,” said Adam Schmidt, UW Madison Junior.

To avoid Computer Vision Syndrome, WOA members recommend practicing the “20-20-20 rule” when using digital devices for an extended period of time.  Users should take a 20 second break during every 20 minutes of device use and look 20 feet away. 

“The biggest thing with Computer Vision Syndrome is people’s quality of life,” said Dr. David Nelson.  “At the end of the day, they come home and are to tired to participate in events with their families.”

As the current president of the WOA, Dr. David Nelson says people blink 75 percent less when sitting in front of a computer screen because they become so engrossed with what they’re doing that they forget to blink.

“Keeping a little bottle of artificial tears next to the computer and putting some eye drops into your eyes before they get dry and irritated is important,” said Dr. Nelson.

The WOA recommends the following guidelines to prevent or reduce vision and eye health problems associated with CVS:  Computer screens should be about 4-5 inches below eye level as measured from the center of the screen and held 20-28 inches away from the eyes.  The most efficient viewing angle on a computer screen is slightly downward about 15 degrees. 

If possible, windows or other light sources should not be directly visible when sitting in front of the monitor. If this occurs, turn the desk or computer to prevent glare on the screen.  Reduce the amount of lighting in the room to match that of the computer screen.  

Both Dr. Nelson and Dr. Wilson say their seeing issues related to Computer Vision Syndrome across all age spectrums.

"Considering the dependence on computers, this is something that is going to continue, but there is help," said Dr. Wilson.

There are specialty glasses that block and filter some of the blue light that comes from computer screens.  If you think you suffer from dry eyes, doctors can test the quality of your tears to find out if you have Dry Eye Syndrome and if it’s linked to Computer Vision Syndrome.

When it comes to really seeing what’s going on with your eyes, there is no substitute for a comprehensive, yearly eye exam by a licensed eye doctor.

"Comprehensive, yearly eye exams preserve vision and constitute the only way to accurately assess eye health, diagnose an eye disorder or disease, and determine if you need corrective lenses” says Dr. Nelson.

Click here to locate a nearby doctor of optometry.

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