How to prevent eye strain from excessive digital screen use
Digital screens are everywhere and everyone in all age groups uses them, some more than necessary, which can lead to an increase in vision issues, said one New Jersey eye doctor.
The aging baby boomer generation coupled with digital screen use is one reason why increased tension is being paid to vision ailments, said Dr. Joseph Calderone of Better Vision NJ in Cranford.
Our eyes’ tear film peaks at age 20, said Calderone, which means our eyes begin experiencing dryness before we even graduate from college. Blinking restores the tear film at about 10 to 12 blinks per minute.
But with screen use, the blink rate is reduced to five or fewer blinks per minute. Calderone said that means eyes dry up a lot faster with prolonged screen use.
He said it is important to give the eyes a break every 20 minutes by looking at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds, the 20-20-20 rule for eye strain, which Calderone often refers to for his patients.
Consider closing the eyes during that time to restore the tear film and further reduce digital eye strain.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Americans in their early 20s were using cell phones on average for more than 28 hours a week, said Calderone, who referred to a Time Magazine article about digital screen use and how it affects adult eyesight.
“The consequences go beyond dry eye syndrome and digital eye strain. Research has also shown that excessive screen time has been linked to higher rates of depression or anxiety, the worsening of other mental health disorders, poor sleep, and higher rates of obesity,” Calderone said.
While many researchers believe excessive screen use may not be as damaging to adults, the impact has not been studied as much.
So, how much screen time is too much for adults?
Calderone said according to the Time Magazine article, it’s important to ask yourself these five important questions before determining an answer:
- Are you sleeping well?
- Are you eating well?
- Are you leaving the house and being social?
- Is your work going well?
- Are you physically active?
If you have good answers to these questions, then you’re probably not overdoing it with the cell phone, he said.
To protect the eyes from excessive digital screen use, Calderone agrees with the experts on their recommendations.
Limit social media to 30 to 60 minutes per day for better mental health. Spend three to four hours daily without any digital screens, which Calderone said could be tough for most people. Stop using screens at least an hour before bedtime for better sleep. Take a break every 20 minutes for eye health.
Parents should also set lower screen time limits for themselves as they lead by example for their kids about how much screen time is acceptable in their home.
Calderone also said it’s crucial to visit an eye doctor regularly for checkups, especially when experiencing eye problems like dry, irritated eyes, and blurry vision.