Technology is playing a big part in helping us to keep healthy. From using the latest wearable fitness technology to using apps to track your diet, there are many ways in which technology can have a positive effect on your wellbeing.
However, the impact of technology on the nation’s health is not always positive. Just think about how many hours you spend watching TV or on social media when you could be out enjoying other things.
As our recent Vision of Britain report shows, there is one area of our health in particular where technology can have a detrimental effect, and it’s something too many of us take for granted: our eyesight.
Eye health and technology
According to the Vision of Britain report, the average British adult spends just over four and a half hours a day on a computer, as well as an hour and three quarters on a tablet and three hours on a smartphone. The figures for 16 to 24 year olds are even higher, with 20% spending six to seven hours a day staring at a computer screen and four to five hours a day looking at their smartphones.
Given these extraordinarily high figures, is it any surprise that around two thirds of optometrists have found an increase in tech related eye strain over the past five years? Furthermore, 57% said that an excessive use of video games, smart phones and computers can lead to eye strain.
Technology could therefore pose a threat to our long-term eye health, and with the prevalence of screens in our modern lives, the full extent of the damage this could be doing to our eyes is yet to be fully understood.
The younger generations may spend an entire lifetime staring at screens, and unless measures are introduced to reduce this kind of eye strain, there may be serious consequences for our eyesight in the future.
The symptoms of eye strain
So how do you know when too much screen time is affecting your eye health? Well, a twitch in the eye or sensitivity to light is a big sign of tired or strained eyes. Yet only a third of adults are aware of this, so many people simply ignore the symptoms.
The symptoms of eye strain from computer screens include:
- Sore, itchy or irritated eyes
- Redness around the eyes
- Blurry vision, or difficulty focusing clearly
- Dry eyes
- Watery eyes
- Soreness or achiness around the neck, shoulders and back
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Twitches in the eye
Of course, if you think your eyes are strained, or if you are experiencing any other problems with your vision, you should make an appointment with an optometrist as soon as possible.
How to avoid eye strain
There are some simple measures you can take to avoid eye strain from screens. For example:
Follow the 20-20-20 rule
Optometrists recommend following the 20-20-20 rule. This involves resting your eyes by looking at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. It’s a great way of giving your eyes a break – yet, according to our report, only around 43% of adults follow this advice.
Make sure your computer is set up properly
Changing your computer’s brightness and contrast settings could help to reduce the strain on your eyes. Have a look at the settings, and see if you can find an option which makes it easier for you to focus.
Assess your workspace
As well as making sure your computer is set up correctly, you should also look at the setup of your wider workspace, including making sure that your computer is at the correct height and distance from your chair and that you’ve got a good posture. Many workplaces have a nominated health and safety officer who can help to check this with you, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Clean your screen
Anything you can do to reduce the effort your eyes have to make to focus could make a difference – even something as simple as cleaning your screen.
When you’re staring at a screen, you tend not to blink as much as you would in natural light. When you’re working at a computer, try and remember to blink sometimes to avoid your eyes getting too dry.
Make the most of your breaks
If possible, try to take regular short breaks away from your screen. Even a couple of minutes to go and make a cuppa could give your eyes a rest. In addition, try to make the most of your lunch break by getting outside in natural light if you can.
Limit your exposure
Of course, the best way to avoid eye strain from computers is to limit your exposure time. This may seem challenging, with screens being such a big part of our everyday lives, but any changes you can make to give your eyes a rest are well worth doing.
The benefits of technology
Of course, the ultimate aim of technology is to make our lives better, and there is a positive side to technology when it comes to eye health.
Seven in ten optometrists say that improvements in technology are making it easier to treat eye conditions. Meanwhile, 24% of GPs and 18% of optometrists believe that eye test apps are helpful for diagnosing problems with eye health. With regards to laser eye surgery in particular, the ongoing development of technology means that vision correction is now safer and more effective than ever.
Fight for Sight, the UK’s leading eye research charity, is currently funding two projects where technology is at the forefront of tackling eye disease, including:
- Peek (Portable Eye Examination Kit) is a smartphone app which can give an accurate eye test for users wherever they are in the world.
- Eyecatcher is an eye tracking platform which can help to detect and monitor age-related eye conditions, such as glaucoma. Researchers are aiming to develop an affordable app for users to download to their tablet.
What to do if you are concerned
If you’re concerned about a deterioration in your vision, it’s important to see an optometrist as soon as possible. If you find that you’ve got problems with your eyesight, whether it’s short sightedness, long sightedness, astigmatism or cataracts, we’ve got treatments here at Optegra which can help.