Technology in a Bad Light: The Risks of Digital Eye Strain

by MikeMeehan 3/3/2017 9:14 AM

Most of us can’t imagine a day without technology. Some of us may sit in front of a computer for eight hours at work. Then we might come home and turn on the TV. Throughout the day, perhaps we keep in touch on our smartphone with our significant other. And later, we may see what our friends are up to using our tablet to access our Facebook newsfeed. Technology can connect us. But when we use it, we spend an awful lot of time staring at a digital surface, which poses a risk of digital eye strain. Are You Suffering from Digital Eye Strain? Digital eye strain occurs when we spend too much time staring at a digital surface like a computer, smartphone, tablet or TV. Due to the ubiquity of these items, it’s safe to say we’re all at risk. If you or your child are experiencing digital eye strain, you might suffer from the following: Headaches Eye dryness Eye fatigue Blurry vision Difficulty shifting focus to objects at a distance Staring at screens for a prolonged period of time can wear down the retina, which can also lead to age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Your retina wears down because your eyes have to exert themselves to see an electronic device clearly. Over an extended period of time, the excessive focusing causes your eyes to become fatigued. Unfortunately, many of us are either unaware or not doing anything about it. A recent nationwide survey from The Vision Council showed 68.5 percent of Americans have not discussed how often they use digital devices with their eyecare provider, and 73.5 percent were unaware of eyewear that could protect their eyes from them. The survey also found 87 percent use digital devices more than two hours per day. More than 50 percent regularly use two digital devices simultaneously. Is Technology Giving You the "Blues"? Digital eye strain occurs because of the light emitted from digital devices. Most devices — including but not limited to computers, smartphones, tablets, TVs and artificial lighting — have light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which radiate blue wavelength light. Blue wavelength light is a high-energy light visible to the naked eye. Let’s consider how light travels. Light wavelengths look like this: Notice, the red-light wavelength is significantly longer than the blue-light wavelength. The red-light wavelength is lower energy. Eventually, the wavelengths become so long we can’t see them with our naked eye. This is the realm of infrared light. If the wavelengths become so short we can’t see them, this is ultraviolet (UV) light. You probably already know the sun’s UV rays can cause sunburn. They can also cause corneal surface burns, or sunburns on the eye. What’s worse, ultraviolet light is a high energy wavelength, so our eyes aren’t good at protecting against it. The Reason Your Children Are at Greater Risk Digital devices can be great for children. They can be fun and educational.  But you’ll want to monitor your children’s use, as digital devices can pose a risk for eye strain. Depending on your children’s ages, digital devices can hurt the development of their eyes. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, a child’s eyes don’t fully develop until about age seven. But even if your children are older than seven, they might not have the same awareness you do of digital interfaces. Or, worse, they might ignore it altogether, and not put the devices away even if they start experiencing symptoms of eye strain. Six Steps that Will Help You Prevent Digital Eye Strain To prevent digital eye strain, you can take the following six steps: Keep your distance. When using technology, don’t press your face right up against the screen. If you’re watching TV, stay at least 20 feet away. Take frequent breaks. Every 20 minutes, take a break from the digital screen for at least 20 seconds. Use one device at a time. As tempting as it might be, don’t play on your phone and watch TV at the same time. Get glasses with blue-light filtering lenses. Sixty-seven percent of people in their 30s spend five or more hours each day on digital devices, according to Vision Monday, a leading news and news-analysis source for the ophthalmic industry. If working with digital screens is a prerequisite for you, consider purchasing glasses with blue-light filtering lenses. This can shield your eyes from harmful wavelengths. Schedule regular eye exams. Schedule routine eye exams every one to two years for you and your children. Unplug. In a lot of ways, you set your children’s habits for them. If you spend eight hours in front of a computer, only to come home and watch TV, you’re children are probably going to emulate your lifestyle. Schedule time as a family to unplug and do something that doesn’t involve technology. Don’t let digital eye strain affect you or your children’s health. By practicing these six steps, you can keep 20/20 vision for the future!  

Halloween Strobe Lights — Are They a Horror on the Eyes?

by MikeMeehan 10/27/2016 3:53 PM

What’s a haunted house without strobe lights? You know the scenario. You enter a room thick with smog from a fog machine. Your only source of light is a strobe. Everything looks like it’s in stop motion. A bulky man ahead of you — you can’t make out any of his features, just that he’s coming toward you — he lifts a detoothed chainsaw above his head and lets it growl. Nothing to fear, you tell yourself. It’s detoothed. But what if it isn’t? Now you feel a scream forming in your chest. The stop-motion feel created by a strobe light can really enhance the mood of a haunted house. But what kind of effect does it have on the eyes? Not much, actually. Although two issues may arise. Two Ways Strobe Lights Can Take a Toll Rumors that strobe lights cause astigmatism are nothing more than that: rumors. But strobe lights can cause eye fatigue or, if the strobe light is powerful enough, a corneal surface burn. Eye fatigue Strobe lights can cause eye fatigue, because they distort the way the brain perceives motion. Think of it like a movie. A movie consists of frames, hundreds of thousands of them, moving in quick succession (24 frames per second). The mind can’t take in each frame individually, so it perceives all the frames together as being in motion. A strobe light, however, flashes light at a much slower rate. So it tricks the mind into seeing the world as “individual frames.” While this trickery isn’t necessarily bad for the eyes, it can cause you to focus more intensely, which can strain your eyes. If you’re experiencing eye fatigue, your eyes might: Ache Feel dry Have difficulty focusing Be sensitive to light But eye fatigue, other than being an annoyance, is rarely a serious condition. If you experience it, close your eyes for a few minutes. You might consider covering them with your palms. Corneal Surface Burn Corneal surface burn is more serious than eye fatigue. If the strobe light is more than 150 watts, the amount of lumens it puts out may be enough to damage your eye if you stare at it directly for a long period. Corneal surface burn is like a sunburn on the surface of the eye. When light is too strong or lasts for too long, it heats the colored part of the eye. That part of the eye absorbs the light — that’s why you see a bright spot when you look away — and the eye radiates the heat, which can burn it. Usually, corneal surface burn heals, but it might take a few days. Of course, it’s highly unlikely you’ll stare at the strobe lights directly, much less long enough to cause damage, what with being shuffled through a haunted house. Regardless, a basic rule of thumb is this: If the strobe light hurts your eyes, don’t stare at it. This Halloween, don’t let strobe lights scare you away from some haunted house fun. Just make sure your eyes feel comfortable. After all, some things you can’t unsee.

Why the Truth about Fish Oil Will Have You Tearing Up

by MikeMeehan 10/6/2016 3:02 PM

Usually, when we say something is fishy, we mean there’s more to it than meets the eye. Or that we smell a tuna sandwich nearby. When it comes to fish oil, there may not be more than meets the eye, but it definitely meets the eye. You’ve probably already heard several of the benefits to popping a fish oil tablet once a day:   Heart health, as fish oil promotes a good blood cholesterol profile Bone health, part of which can include improving joint pain Stroke prevention Wrinkle prevention Hair thickening   Now, you can add eye health to that list. Fish oil contains eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): omega-3 fatty acids that produce better tears. And tears play an important role in our eye health. Go Ahead, Cry Usually, when we think of tears, we think of emotional tears — the kind caused by pain, grief or watching Brian’s Song. But tears play an even broader role for our vision. Tears keep our eyes wet and nourished. When we blink, tears cover our cornea, ensuring our cornea is always wet and nourished. Tears flush out unwanted substances. During family vacation this summer, did you end up with suntan lotion in your eyes? It probably resulted in you tearing up. Or have you ever touched your eyes after handling a jalapeño? Definitely resulted in tears. Some people, however, don’t have the luxury of readily available tears. These people suffer from dry eye syndrome. Dry Eye Syndrome: The Nemesis of Tears Dry eye syndrome is a common condition in which a person either doesn’t produce enough tears or produces tears that evaporate too quickly. Not only can this be uncomfortable, it can lead to irritation, infection or — worse — future vision problems. Dry eye syndrome is often a result of growing older — it affects about 70 percent of older people — but other culprits could include allergies, or chronic pink eye from tobacco smoke exposure. Although fish oil may not be a cure-all for dry eye syndrome — other treatments like artificial tears may be required — it can certainly facilitate recovery. How much fish oil you take depends on your condition. Generally, 500 mg to 1,000 mg a day is sufficient, though the dosage may be upped depending on dry eye severity. Many grocery stores offer supplements with 1,200-mg to 1,350-mg softgel tablets, so getting the recommended dosage probably won’t be too difficult to find. Celebrate See-food Month This October, to celebrate seafood month, go ahead and give fish oil a try. If you want the benefits of fish oil, but don’t want to take a softgel tablet, you can grill it in your diet. At least three times a week, schedule grilled salmon, tuna, halibut or cod. If none of those options sound good, you have tons of fish to choose from. It just might leave you crying tears of joy.

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