Editor’s Note: Welcome to “Eye Catching: Let's Chat,” a blog series featuring contributions from members of the ophthalmic community. These blogs are an opportunity for ophthalmic bloggers to engage with readers with about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this blog by Alan Mendelsohn, MD. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of Ophthalmology Times or UBM Medica.
"Don't sit so close!"
Our parents and grandparents used to warn, “Don’t sit so close to the TV. It will hurt your eyes.” Back then, the admonition had an intuitive rather than scientific basis. Now we know that they were right, even if we weren’t sure why.
Over the past decade, complaints to physicians about headaches and eye strain have increased in frequency. While patients may suspect the culprit is extended- and long-term exposure to computers, cell phones, iPads, and other digital devices, the complaints disguise the more pernicious implications of exposure to high-energy visible (HEV) light.
According to the Vision Council, 95% of Americans spend at least two hours a day staring at their computer screens, phones, televisions, and other digital devices. As the amount of time spent focusing on these devices increases, so, too, does the incidence and complaints of digital eye strain and its attendant symptoms of watery or, conversely, dry eyes, headaches, and difficulty focusing. It also affects our circadian rhythms, resulting in the disruption of sleep patterns.
The most obvious solution — “Spend less time on online or staring at your cell phone” — simply isn’t viable. Most people’s jobs require excessive amounts of time in front of a computer screen, while our recreational hours are increasingly spent either online or focused on a cell phone or other electronic device screens.
As an ophthalmologist in practice for 30 years, I see the danger and damage firsthand and would love nothing more than to limit each individual’s time online.
However, the more prudent approach is to recognize the real danger posed by excessive exposure to the unique wavelengths of light that are omnipresent in modern society, and urge preventative, protective, and practical solutions.