What is eye strain and how does it occur?So, first things first, what is eye strain and what is it that triggers it? Why is it that some of us feel tired or get a headache after using our lovely devices for a prolonged period of time? Eye strain is an eye condition which can cause fatigue, eye pain, headaches, and even blurred vision. As a matter of fact, though, eye strain does not purely come from using a smartphone or anything that has a screen really. Eye strain comes from trying to focus on something over a long period of time and that time can vary from person to person. Eye strain can occur from reading a book, driving a vehicle, looking at a screen/monitor, or whatever involves focusing really. That's because when you focus on something, the muscles attached to your eyes will tense up. And just like with any other muscle in your body, if you use them for a long period of time without taking any breaks, you can experience things like soreness and fatigue.
Is eye strain dangerous for our eyesight and are the effects stronger if it comes from using a phone?To put it very simply: no. We currently have no proof that eye strain leads to any kind of permanent damage and the same goes for phone use. Using your phone for a long period of time will indeed cause eye strain and that's a fact. However, it's just that there is no information anywhere which proves that this will leave any permanent consequences. That's all with normal eye strain. However, what about digital eye strain? Do our smartphones make things any worse than they already are? Well, kind of. This whole eye strain condition can occur faster/more frequently if you're focusing on a backlit source; aka a smartphone. That's because your eyes need to constantly adjust to the brightness of your screen and the darkness of your room. Overall, there is currently no proof that eye strain can cause any permanent damage with or without the use of a smartphone. But, what about viewing distance? Blue light emissions? Exposure times?
Is viewing distance important?You've probably heard by one of your elders that you shouldn't sit too close to a screen so that you won't hurt your eyes. But, is that true? Well, nope. So, why is it that we've heard this so many times over and over again? So many people couldn't possibly be wrong. Right? Well, kind of. You see, that used to be true back in the days of CRT monitors. That's because some of these monitors which used this kind of technology would emit X-ray radiation. If you went through our previous article about radiation and smartphones, then you can probably understand why some of these monitors were indeed harmful. And while smartphones do emit a level of radiation, it's nowhere near enough to harm our eyesight or anything. Back to screens. The vast majority of phones nowadays rely on LCD panels that are perfectly safe to use. Overall, a few decades ago, sitting too close to a screen was indeed harmful. But, that's just not the case anymore.
What's up with exposure times?So, all things considered, it turns out that sitting too close to any kind of screen will not actually damage our eyesight. But, what about exposure times? What if we spend a lot of time using our phone? Well, this is where the bad news start - almost. Some professionals and studies were once saying that staring at a screen for extended periods of times slightly increases our chances of developing myopia; aka nearsightedness. However, the most recent studies to date indicate that there is absolutely no correlation between myopia and prolonged exposure to screens. Obviously, staring at a screen for too long will cause a level of eye strain to come up. But, as we mentioned above, that's nothing that can permanently damage your eyesight in any way.
What about blue light?Here's where things get a little bit more complicated. We do know for sure that prolonged exposure to blue light emissions is absolutely harmful to our eyes. What we don't know, is how much blue light is needed to harm us and if the blue light that is emitted from smartphones has the same effects that were witnessed in the test labs. As Ajith Karunarathne, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Toledo’s department of chemistry and biochemistry mentioned:
"We caution the public that our study does not show that light from mobile devises or other digital screens cause blindness. Whether blue light from mobile devises and digital screens induces similar toxicity levels is an unanswered question and is currently under investigation."So, to put it simply, nobody knows for sure yet. The only thing that we know is that blue light emissions from phones can possibly affect our sleep schedule.
ConclusionAt this moment, there is absolutely no proof that smartphones can damage our eyesight permanently. We do know that they cause eye strain - which is temporary and is caused by any kind of activity that includes focusing anyway - but that's about it. And with that being said, there are some ways to minimize or even completely avoid the few negative side effects that phone screens have.
How to deal with eye strain that's caused from using your smartphone
- Use the 20-20-20 rule. For every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something that's at least 20 feet away. That will allow your eyes to rest for a while and will also minimize eye strain.
- Adjust the brightness so that it's at the same level as your room's ambient lighting. In that way, your eyes won't have to adjust to different levels of lighting all that often.
- Try not to use your smartphone before bedtime. While the blue light emissions from our smartphones haven't been proven to be harmful, there are indications that they ruin our sleep cycle. So, try not to use your smartphone before going to bed. But, if you must, then at least use a blue light filter app.
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