20 Jun 2017Eye Health

The impact social media and proximity of digital screens is having on our eyes

Did you know that digital screens can decrease the eye's blink rate by up to two thirds? ^1-2-3^

With almost a third of us (32%) spending nine hours or more staring at a digital screen every day^4^, our eyes are working harder than ever before, and not just at work. Yes, the average British worker receives and sends around 10,000 emails a year^5^, but research by Bausch + Lomb reveals that the average Briton spends 6.5 hours of leisure time each day in front of digital screens^6^.

As well as watching YouTube and Netflix on digital gadgets, social media has a big part to play. 84% of us use social media in the UK^4^. Whilst almost half (43%) of us use it to see what gossip or news is being shared among friends and acquaintances, almost a quarter (23%) just go on when we’re bored^4^. Interestingly, 38% also blamed social media for reducing our attention spans^4^.

Impact on our eyes

Certainly, with the amount of information we can absorb and share from digital technology it has transformed the way we see the world, but how has it affected our eyes?

Research from Bausch + Lomb shows that:

  • Four out of five people believe digital technology is having a negative impact on their eye health^4^
  • More than half (56%) say their eyes feel tired at the end of the day from screen usage^4^
  • 15.5% suffer from blurred vision^4^
  • Research has also cited computer usage as the number one reason for contact lens drop out^7^

So it is small wonder that 40% of adults worry about the eye health of the younger generations^8^, especially as nine out of 10 (87%) of those in their 20s use two or more devices simultaneously^9^.

Their concerns are well-founded as looking at digital screens can decreases the eye's blink rate by 66% from an average of 18 blinks a minute, with a higher rate of incomplete blinks which are less functional^1-2-3^. These partial blinks, as well as being less effective are also far more common when we work at a computer. There is also clear evidence that the more time we spend on screen, the greater the risk of eye symptoms^10-11^.

Blinking keeps the cornea lubricated and removes any debris. It also brings nutrients, minerals and other beneficial substances to the surface of the eye and the eyelids need to maintain a protective, lubricating film from tears^1^.

Japanese researchers have also shown that a low blink rate reduces levels of a protein called MUC5AC found in the tear film which is essential for good vision and to protect the eye^12^.

 Although subtle to the naked eye, digital devices also do not always present letters as sharply defined as when they are printed, and we have  glare and screen reflections to deal with causing extra strain^13^.

 A recent study also suggests that 60-90% of office workers using computer screens could suffer from some form of 'computer vision syndrome’^14^ (an uncomfortable collection of ocular and musculoskeletal symptoms) which will affect nine out of ten people who sit at a screen at some time^15^.

So if you think you could be suffering from computer vision syndrome, also known as digital eye strain, be aware of the signs – dry, sore, itchy, gritty, or tired eyes. Many of us might also get blurred vision or tension headaches.

Top Tips for Interacting with Digital Technology

1. Gowrisankaran et al. Asthenopia and Blink Rate Under Visual and Cognitive Loads. Optometry and Vision Science, Vol. 89, No. 1, January 2012. pg 97-104
2. Tsubota K, Nakamori K. Dry eyes and video display terminals. N Engl J Med 1993;328:584
3. Effect of visual display unit use on blink rate and tear stability S.Patel, R.Henderson, L. Bradley, B.Galloway, L. Hunter Department of Optometry and Vision Space, Glasgow Polytechnic Vol 68, No 11, pp 888-892
4. OnePoll research commissioned on behalf of Bausch + Lomb ULTRATM, May 2016, 1,000 adults aged 20-60. Q2
5. Warwick Business School, Will Skillman, for online archive Remember How We Worked compiled by npower 2013
6. Communication Market Report 2015
7. Exploring contact lens drop off, Kadence International, 2013
8. Consumer research for Bausch + Lomb ULTRATM , OnePoll, 1,000 respondents, summer 2016
9. Digital Eye Strain Report by Vision Council, 2016
10. http://www.reviewofophthalmolo...
11. Blehm C, Vishnu S, Khattak A, Mitra S, Yee RW. Computer vision syndrome: A review. Surv Ophthalmol 2005;50:3: 253-262. - See more at: http://www.reviewofophthalmolo...
12. http://www.sciencealert.com/st...
13. http://www.aoa.org/patients-an...
14. American Optometric Association. Computer Vision Syndrome Symptoms Clinical Care Publications 2013;1: 1-3
15. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com...
16. allaboutdryeye.com/2012/03/20/blinking-exercises-to-relieve-dry-eye-symptoms
17. www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-pr...
18. www.computer-vision-syndrome.o...


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