Smart phone and tablet usage has expanded significantly across the globe in recent years prompting scientists and researchers to ask compelling questions around how this jump in screen usage is impacting our health. The fallout from extensive mobile device usage can be felt in a number of ways, not just with the eyes. Your holistic optometrist and her team of wellness professionals can respond to your needs in helping not only treat the ailments resulting from too much screen time, but can offer some suggestions on minimizing further issues.
One study looked at the visual fatigue and discomfort induced by mobile devices. Not surprisingly, using a smart mobile device for even one hour increased the incidence of tired, irritated and watery eyes in test subjects. This was the case in spite of the state-of-the-art technology the devices were equipped with leading the researchers to conclude that a retinal display does not necessarily prevent visual fatigue.
Further studies looked at the psychophysical health problems associated with smart phone use and a recent report reveals that 45% of smartphone users feel anxiety when not holding their smartphones. In addition to emotional impacts, excessive use of mobile devices can cause physical problems such as neck stiffness, blurred vision, dry eyes and wrist or back pain. Asthenopia, or extreme eye strain, can be induced by excessive viewing of computer screens and is defined as computer vision syndrome (CVS) which presents with visual, ocular and musculoskeletal (especially neck and shoulder) symptoms. Another possible mechanism of CVS is the blue light emitted from a light emitting diode (LED) display.
Mobile devices are not the only culprits
Studies have shown that using a desktop computer for more than 4 hours at a time can significantly increase eye discomfort. Similarly, readers of electronic books with liquid crystal displays also experience increased visual fatigue. Individuals who work on computers develop dry eye disease about 60% of the time, while the general population experience dry eye only about 10% of the time.
We need to be particularly vigilant when addressing this issue in children
Children may ignore discomfort if they are enjoying a task and they may not complain, or they may fail to report relevant symptoms, such as dry eye, even though they may report other symptoms, such as blurred vision. Most studies on the effects of screen time in children indicate that the odds of visual symptoms increase after 2–4 hours of use while musculoskeletal effects increase after 2–3 hours.
The Canadian Paediatric Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest screen time limits based on age. While it is common for young people to spend in excess of 4 hours a day looking at screens, the CPS and AAP recommend no more than 2 hours per day of recreational screen time with breaks after 30 minutes being encouraged (and breaks should include whole-body physical activity).
Regardless of age, your holistic optometrist can offer the support you need to help relieve discomfort you may experience after prolonged screen usage. Call (905) 702-1616 and book an appointment today.