We’ve all been there: your phone tells you that your weekly screen time report is ready, and you know it’s not going to be good. While cutting down on screen time can be smart for several reasons, it can be tough to do during times of quarantine and teleworking.

You know that too much screen time can be bad for your sleep and even your waistline – but can too much screen time negatively affect your vision?

The good news: the risk of permanent damage is low, according to experts.

Digital Eyestrain

One of the most common issues associated with increased screen time is digital eyestrain or DES. Most American adults report using a screen for more than two hours each day, and many use two or more devices at once, for example, responding to texts while also working on a computer.

Symptoms of digital eyestrain may include:

  • A feeling that it’s hard to keep your eyes open
  • Tired, sore, itching, burning, dry, and/or watery eyes that aren’t attributed to another condition
  • Difficulty keeping focus on the task at hand
  • Sore neck, back, shoulders, and/or arms
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Headaches

Symptoms typically go away after the eyes get some rest. Home treatments, such as an over-the-counter pain reliever for headaches and/or eye drops to relieve dryness may be helpful. If you experience digital eyestrain that does not go away after taking time away from your device and/or trying home remedies, be sure to reach out to your eye care professional.

Risks of Blue Light

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Noticing people wearing yellow-tinted glasses while working on their computers or tablets lately? Some people are taking precautions to protect their eyes from blue light emitted by electronic screens.

Some early research regarding the effect of blue light on animals suggested that this type of light could cause damage to retina cells. Current research has shown that exposure to blue light can lead to issues with focus and/or digital eyestrain, but permanent damage and/or eye diseases are not caused by blue light.

The bottom line when it comes to blue light: if wearing blue light blocking glasses is helpful for you and makes it easier to stay alert and focused as you work, go ahead and use them. Just know that forgetting to wear them (or choosing not to wear them) will not leave your eyes susceptible to long-term damage or disease.

Taking Care of Vision When Increased Screen Time is Necessary

While using a screen often is not going to permanently damage your eyes, it’s still a good idea to moderate screen use as much as possible. Taking frequent breaks, reducing screen glare by reducing overhead lighting, using artificial tears when necessary, and increasing text size on your screen so that you can see more easily can all go a long way to keep your eyes feeling great when you’re using your screens more than normal.

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