Prolonged use of digital devices can harm eyes

Those who spend most of their waking hours glued to computers and other electronic devices better watch out.

Ophthalmologists in the city are seeing an increase in the number of people with symptoms of burning sensation, itching, weariness of the eyes often accompanied by headaches and fatigue.

This, they say, is related to continuous and prolonged exposure to digital devices, especially computers, television and smart phones.

In fact, many of us spend most of our working hours staring at a digital screen. Studies suggest that 60 per cent of people spend more than six hours a day in front of a digital device.

This habit can initially cause dry eyes and strain them. Direct glare of over 30 minutes continuously for a prolonged period can even cause irreversible eye macular degeneration, resulting in rapid deterioration of vision, doctors say.

K. Bhujang Shetty, chairman and managing director of Narayana Nethralaya, says the symptoms of irritation, dryness and burning sensation in the eye could be due to decreased frequency of blinking. The hospital sees at least 30 patients with these symptoms a day.

“Normally, a person blinks 14 to 16 times a minute. Blinking is an essential function that provides moisture and helps spread tears and remove irritants from the surface of the cornea and conjunctiva,” the doctor says.

Kaushik Murali, consultant paediatric ophthalmologist at Sankara Eye Hospital, says although it is not possible to avoid using digital devices, especially computers and smart phones as they have become a part of life now, it would be advisable for people to cut down the time they spend before digital devices.

He says it is important to take precautions such as maintaining a comfortable working distance from the device and ensuring that the screen is bright enough and the fonts big enough to read comfortably.

Both the doctors say it is advisable for a person to follow the rule of 20s — every 20 minutes, stare at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This will bring back the blink rate to normal and also relax the muscles in the eye.

“Playing out is healthier than playing on your device and this holds good especially for children. If you have any strain, get your eyes examined. Any uncorrected refractive error would only compound your strain,” Dr. Murali says.



Dos and Don’ts

Do not ignore any symptoms, get eyes tested frequently

Follow the 20/20 rule (A 20 second break once in every 20 minutes to look at an object 20 feet away)

Maintain ideal lighting while using gadgets

Follow good posture

Do eye exercises at regular intervals


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