By Dr. Marc Grossman O.D.L.Ac.
Technology impacts and shapes our lives in countless ways. Sure, it offers lots of benefits, but there are drawbacks as well. In particular, our vision suffers from the hours we gaze at two-dimensional computer screens.
The good news is that our eyes share in our brain’s innate adaptability. The not so great news is that modern demands on vision, especially our constant focus on close-up screens, is causing our eyes to make unhealthy adaptations. Thankfully, you can help yourself, but first you have to see clearly what’s causing the problem (pun intended).
For millennia, humans spent most of their time focused on distance—such as scouting the horizon for dangerous predators, weather, food and shelter. Today, we spend our days primarily staring at objects only 18 inches (or less) from our eyes—smartphones, tablets, iPads, e-books, desktops and the like. This constant nearby focus is the main cause of myopia (nearsightedness). And while wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses may seem like an easy solution, nearsightedness is about more than blurry distance vision.
Before the age of technology, nearsightedness was found primarily among professions that required a lot of reading, such as accountants, lawyers and college professors. It was hardly ever found among, for instance, farmers. Now nearsightedness is reaching global epidemic proportions. For example, in China and Japan up to 90% of students age 12 and older are nearsighted. The situation is only likely to worsen with some estimates predicting that in the next 30 years half of people worldwide will be nearsighted.
This trend shouldn’t surprise anyone as computers become virtually ubiquitous, which results in CVS (computer vision syndrome), more commonly known as computer eye strain. It is a combination of vision problems noticed during and after working long hours on the computer. OSHA describes it as a repetitive strain disorder affecting 90% of U.S. workers on computers daily. A recent study of university students underscored the point when it found virtually half or more suffered from computer-related eye issues such as headaches (53.3%), burning sensation in the eyes (54.8%) and tired eyes (48%).
And it more than just a simple strain. CVS is a contributing cause to a host of eye conditions including glaucoma, dry eye, advanced macular degeneration, harm to rods and cones, damage to the retinal pigmented layer of macula and eye cancer.
While studies on the effects of computer eyestrain are not yet prevalent, taking a hard look repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) can help put this problem into perspective.
Consider the following symptoms just as starters:
- Eyestrain and fatigue
- Blurred or fuzzy vision
- Dizziness, upset stomach
- Difficulty focusing on work
- Headaches and migraine headaches
- Dry, red, or irritated eyes
- Increased myopia (nearsightedness)
- Color vision changes
- Slow ability to refocus
- Excessive tiredness
- Neck strain, shoulder, and upper and lower back pain
- Occasional double vision, or eye-coordination problems
Add to these, the rise in related insomnia issues and the potentially devasting impact of computer-related eye issues comes into focus. Consider our near obsession of checking email, for example. The blue light our phones give off in throws off the internal rhythm that allows us to sleep peacefully. And it’s not just a problem for adults. Nearly 75% of children now use some sort of electronic device in their bedroom, which risks adversely impacting their sleep patterns and contributing to social adjustment and behavioral problems in school and at home, and surprisingly, weight gain.
Is there a remedy in sight? Yes, but it requires a combination of behavioral adjustments and nutritional support. As a starter:
- Limit cell phone use to under 2 hours per day.
- Take regular breaks from mobile devices and computers use to relax the eyes
- Eat a healthy diet that includes lots of green, leafy vegetables. Avoid excess sugar, refined carbohydrates, trans fatty acids and fried food.
- Get outside and exercise—hike, walk, jog, bike.
- Wear blue blocking glasses to filter out a computer’s and mobile phone’s blue light.
In addition, supplement your diet with the following nutrients help filter out light and provide powerful antioxidants:
- Lutein 10 mg and Zeaxanthin: 2 mg per day
- Vitamin C (buffered): 2,000mg–3,000 mg per day
- Astaxanthin: 6 mg per day.
Ultimately you need to embrace a healthy lifestyle that keeps unlimited computer use at bay, while including regular exercise, daily meditations or walks in nature and a healthy diet.
About Dr. Marc Grossman O.D.L.Ac.
Dr. Grossman’s comprehensive background includes degrees in Optometry, Biology, Physical Education and Learning Disabilities, coupled with yoga, nutrition, Chinese Medicine and acupuncture, bioenergetics, Ayurveda, nutrition, the Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais. He is founder of naturaleyecare.com, the largest consumer eyecare resource of its kind, and a respected author of 5 books, most recently co-author of the acclaimed Natural Eye Care, Your Guide To Healthy Eyes and Healing. Dr. Grossman also teaches workshops for health care professionals and physicians, and is frequently interviewed on local and national media. He is on the Medical Review Board for Dr. Axe.com, on the Experts Committee of Bottom Line magazine and online, and is a consultant to School Systems, and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.