6 Things That Happen to Your Eyes When You Stare at the Screen All Day

editor@purewow.com (PureWow)
·6 mins read

From checking Gmail to scrolling TikTok before bed (don’t judge us), our electronic usage is at an all-time high. We already know that blue light can have a major impact on our skin, but what about our eyes?

Cue LensDirect—a one-stop shop for getting prescriptions, contacts, glasses and more—who put us in touch with Dr. Jonah Berman, OD. The optometrist gave us a full rundown about the effects of prolonged screen time and highlighted six things that can happen to your eyes when you stare at a screen all day. Here’s what he had to say.

1. Temporary irritation

According to Dr. Berman, the most common symptoms include “itching, burning, tearing, redness, headache, tiredness, eye pain while doing screen work.” If you experience any (or all) of the above, the optometrist encourages his patients to remember to “simply blink.”

“All too often, we concentrate so much on what we are viewing that we tend to stare, and this creates a dry, potentially unhealthy ocular environment,” Dr. Berman told PureWow. “If necessary, use artificial tears, preferably without preservatives, on an as needed basis.”

2. Too much blue light

Electronic devices—including computers—are known to emit blue light, which can have long-term effects on your eyes. “High energy visible light (HEV) is high frequency/short wavelength light in the violet/blue band (400-450 nm) of the visible light spectrum. HEV, which is emitted by digital screens, is closest to that of potentially harmful Ultraviolet light (100-400nm), so there has been concern about the safety of using these devices without protection—such as eyeglass lenses which block blue light (‘blue blockers’),” Dr. Berman explained.

While some exposure is normal, excessive screen time can increase the chance of developing an ocular condition. “Ordinarily, we receive doses of blue light from a number of other sources, chief among them being sunlight, plus man-made, indoor sources of blue light such as flat screen televisions, fluorescent and LED lighting to which we are exposed,” Dr. Berman said. “It’s known that UV/blue light can contribute to cataracts and other ocular conditions (this is the purpose of wearing sunglasses outside).”

The best way to avoid too much blue light exposure is to get your hands on a pair of blue light blocker lenses. “If you are a frequent screen user (especially at night), or tend to hold a device close to your eyes, you might want to consider blue blocker lenses, especially if vision concerns have been expressed by your Eye Care Professional,” Dr. Berman added. “Be advised, however, that these lenses will not protect your eyes from fatigue and other symptoms associated with excessive screen use.”

Shop our favorite blue light blocker glasses: KENZHOU ($19); Felix Gray ($95); Meetsun ($16)

3. Lack of lubrication

If your vision is blurry long after you’ve closed your laptop, you’re not alone. “Constant blurred distance vision may develop with continuous computer use; in some cases, the individual’s eyeglass or contact lens prescription might need to be changed (i.e., increased),” Dr. Berman said.

Still, you might want to consider adopting the American Optometric Association’s 20-20-20 rule: “Take a 20 second break to view something at least 20 feet away every 20 minutes,” he continued.

The optometrist revealed that the brief break will benefit your eyes in the long run. “Make every effort to limit your computer time and be sure to take frequent breaks throughout the day,” Dr. Berman added. “Remember to look away from your screen periodically for at least a few seconds until your vision is clear beyond the screen (this relaxes your focusing muscles so that they can maintain flexibility and strength).”

4. Dehydration

Your eyes can get dehydrated, just like your body. And since we tend to blink less when staring at a screen, Dr. Berman recommends hydrating while using the computer.

“Drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day; this helps to hydrate the eyes and eyelid tissues,” he said. “Eat a proper, nourishing diet on a consistent basis to maintain your overall health, strength and comfort.”

5. Over stimulation

Staring at a screen all day increases exposure to blue light, which can affect your sleep schedule. “Prolonged exposure to high frequency, short wavelength energy light rays emanating from digital devices may impact overall health by affecting circadian rhythm, the day and night scheduling our body becomes used to,” Dr. Berman said.

In short, the light acts as a stimulant to your brain, which is why it’s more difficult to fall asleep after you’ve been staring at your phone in a pitch-black room. “Blue light is very much involved in regulating our body’s natural sleep and wakefulness cycle (circadian rhythm); it can boost alertness when we are awake during daylight hours, and has been used to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which occurs when people experience distress during times of the year when sunlight is diminished,” Dr. Berman continued. “Blue light is associated with daytime; the absence of blue light at night helps our bodies prepare for sleep.”

As for advice, Dr. Berman added, “Get an adequate amount of rest/sleep on a regular basis. Try to plan your daily schedule so that a digital device isn’t used close to bedtime, to avoid stimulating the brain and making it difficult to fall asleep.”

6. Digital eye strain (aka Computer Vision Syndrome)

Is sounds scarier than it really is, but Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) refers to symptoms that are caused by too much electronic usage. “Constant stress on our eyes’ focusing and aiming muscles—without rest—can produce a whole host of symptoms: blurry, double or fluctuating vision; eyestrain; headaches; dry, burning, itchy, red, irritated eyes; neck/shoulder/back pain; dizziness,” Dr. Berman said.

There are multiple factors that contribute to the condition, including natural light reflecting off your screen. “Digital eye strain can be compounded by other factors, such as the drying effects on the eyes of circulating air from overhead vents, or glare from three common sources: bright overhead lighting, windows behind or in front of the screen or the screen itself,” Dr. Berman continued.

To avoid developing symptoms, the optometrists encourages patients to think about their surroundings when using a computer. “Foster comfortable viewing conditions: avoid either too dim or too bright ambient lighting around you as you view your device,” he added. “View your device at a comfortable angle (the center of the computer screen should be 15-20 degrees below eye level) and at an adequate distance which is not too close (the AOA recommends 20”-28” away from the eyes); maintain a comfortable seating posture in a chair with proper support.”

So minor, yet so necessary.

RELATED: Here’s Why You Should Never Wear Contact Lenses in the Shower, According to an Optometrist

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