As ~magical~ as technology has made our lives (without Snapchat, how else would you know what you’d look like as a baby deer with a munchkin voice?), it also has its downfalls. It’s pretty much ruining our attention span, memory, and relationships. It’s making us fat and lazy, and it’s skyrocketing our risk of disease. Not to mention, it’s giving us anxiety and a wonderful thing called “tech neck.”
But obviously there are a ton of benefits too (keeping in touch with far-away friends, working remotely), and there’s a slim-to-none chance that the human race will give it up anytime soon. In the meantime, though, there’s one more thing to add to the list of reasons why you should try not to be on a device every second of every day: your kinda-sorta-important ability to see things.
What Are Digital Eye Strain and Computer Vision Syndrome?
You know how sleepy and “blah” you feel after a long workday? There’s a chance that’s from computer vision syndrome, aka having tired, sore, often irritated eyes and blurry vision from sitting in front of a computer for hours on end. But you don’t need to be parked at a desk to get hit with this condition. This physical eye discomfort may be felt after two or more hours of any screen use per day, and is generally referred to as digital eye strain, says Justin Bazan, O.D., optometrist and medical advisor to The Vision Council.
Digital eye strain (the general term) is super common, with 31 percent of Americans (and a whopping 68 percent of millennials!) reporting experiencing eye strain-22 percent experience dry eyes, headaches, and/or vision problems, and 30 percent have neck and shoulder pain after two-plus hours of screen time per day, according to a report by The Vision Council. Not all that surprising, considering 52 percent of people admit to using two devices simultaneously each day.
Some really good news: Many of these symptoms are only temporary and will decline when you take a break from your devices, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA). Plus, research has yet to show that the blue light emitted from devices (also called high energy visible light or HEV) results in enough damage to cause permanent vision loss, says Bazan.
But that doesn’t mean excessive screen time won’t cause other issues: Research suggests that blue light exposure may result in damage to the retina plus long-term vision problems such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts, says Bazan. Not to mention, it might suppress the natural release of melatonin, disrupting sleep, and be effing with your metabolism. Not cool. One study in the New England Journal of Medicine even found that reading a screen with one eye closed can cause temporary blindness in one eye. Yikes.