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Technology and Your Eyes

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With the ever advancing technological world we live in, there is barely a gap during the day that doesn’t involve looking at some type of electronic screen. When we check the news online at home before work, make a choice from the TV menu screens at McDonalds, even checking the latest Instagram feeds on our lunch break – there is always some form of screen put before us. While some of these seem and may very well be a necessity, WE ARE AT RISK.

That may sound somewhat intense. What exactly are we at risk from? Too much Instagram? Are we going to die from looking at our phones? If anything, I feel like I’d die without looking at it. Is there truly a need for preventative measures against our tech devices?

What We See

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It is estimated that the average Canadian spends almost 8 hours of their free time staring at some form of electronic screen. In an online poll of 2,058 Canadians — conducted last fall by Ipsos on behalf of Google — smartphone owners said 86 per cent of their daily so-called “media interactions” were screen-based, including watching TV, using a computer, tablet or e-reader. Many of the respondents also admitted to multi-tasking with their devices, either watching TV or using a computer, while being on their phone as well.

The danger with the constant time spent on these devices is for your eyes. The more you look at your phone, computer, or windshield mounted GPS device, the more your eyes are strained in trying to keep their focus on the small details. In addition, most people tend to blink less when staring at electronic screens which causes dry eyes. From all of this combined we may suffer headaches, and burning and itchiness of the eyes.

What is it about our devices that make it so detrimental to our health?

The Dangers of Blue Light

Sunlight contains red, orange, yellow, green and blue light rays and many shades of each of these colors, depending on the energy and wavelength of the individual rays. When combined together, this spectrum of colored light rays creates what we call “white light” or clean natural sunlight.

There is a contrasting relationship between the wavelength of light rays and the amount of energy they contain. Light rays that have relatively long wavelengths contain less energy, and those with short wavelengths have more energy. The blue light rays have the shortest wavelength but the highest energy. This visible light is considered to be a high-energy visible (HEV) light.

Much like the air we breathe, blue light is everywhere. Of course sunlight is the biggest source of blue light, and when we are outdoors in the daylight, we are exposed to it. Although as long as you don’t look directly into the sun, you don’t have to worry too much about blue light. But almost every electronic screen emits a substantial amount of blue light. Though these devices emit only a small fraction of what the sun produces, it is the high amount of time spent on them that is dangerous.

The cornea and lens in our eye are very effective at blocking harmful UV rays from reaching the light-sensitive retina at the back of the eyeball. In contrast, nearly all HEV light passes through the cornea and reaches the retina. But because the high-energy and short wave length blue light scatters more easily than other visible light, it is not as easily focused. When looking at electronic screens, it is the unfocused visual ‘noise’ than can add to digital eye strain.

If you are on the road constantly, your eyes are working even harder. Sometimes when passing a vehicle you’ll look over and see an entire cluster of gadgets mounted to the dash and windshield, as though most of Best Buy is sitting on his dash. Not only can too many devices be a cause for distraction, but the constant change of focus from an electronic screen to re-focusing on the road is detrimental to our eyes.

Your eyes have muscles that control the ability to open or close the pupil in order to see more clearly in dark or bright conditions. When it’s dark out, your pupil is open wide in order to let more light in. If you then look over to your dash mounted phone or other device, you suddenly bombard your pupil with a flash of blue light – forcing it to rapidly close again. It is this action that causes the strain on the muscles in our eyes.

What Help is There?

Recycle Technology

No you don’t need to throw out all your electronics. You don’t need an expensive prescription and you don’t even need to join a help group. The remedy is easy: Look away! Whether you spend a lot of time behind electronic screens for work or for pleasure, a basic rule of thumb is a 10:1 ratio. Basically, for every 1 hour you spend behind a screen, look away for 10 minutes. This will give your eyes enough time to readjust properly and prevent them from being overstrained. In addition, remember to be conscious about blinking when staring at a screen. When you blink you lubricate your eyes, this will prevent your eyes from feeling itchy or burning.

There are other aids out there that can also help you. Some of the newer computer monitors have blue light adjustment settings built right into them that gives the user the ability to lower its intensity. There are different types of filters you can apply directly to you screen which will help cut down glare and blue light, without effecting the visibility of the display. If you use a phone or tablet, there are screen protectors that you can purchase from Amazon or EBay that have light filters built into them. You can even purchase glasses that have a special lenses in them to filter out blue light, and you can get this with or without an eyeglass prescription.

You sight is one of your most important senses. It is also one of the most susceptible to danger. Do what you can to protect them. Check the settings on your computer to see if you can adjust the blue light settings of your display. There are even some apps you can download to reduce blue light from your phone or tablet screen. And if all else fails, just remember to look away.

More information on blue light glasses:


All About Vision
The Globe and Mail
Vision Aware



Rob Morris