One doctor Go Healthy NY spoke with said digital New Yorkers who are glued to their iPads, smartphones and computer screens do not risk permanent vision damage, though prolonged time in front of a screen can cause eye strain if the correct precautions are not taken.
“People are under the fallacy that many hours of computer use will cause permanent damage to their vision. In younger patients it can often cause eye strain, which can lead to needing glasses for distance,” said optometrist Dr. Alan B. Schlussel, who practices in Midtown.
According to the American Optometric Association, more than 70 percent of employed people who spend most of their days in front of a computer screen -- -- or 140 million people -- suffer the “effects of computer vision syndrome or eye fatigue.”
Straining one’s eyes for more than two hours each day puts one at risk for computer vision syndrome (CVS) or eye fatigue, according to the organization.
But there is some relief for those who suffer from the condition.
“CVS is not a dangerous condition, though it can lead to eye strain, which can lead to headaches and reduce the ability to perform computer tasks for extended periods of time,” said Schlussel.
Other CVS symptoms include blurred vision and tired, dry or burning eyes.
Here are some eye-care precautions to prevent eye-strains:
1. Book an Eye Exam.
An eye-care professional can determine if your eyes are healthy and your level of farsightedness, nearsightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia.
“Anyone who spends a lot of time in front of the computer should have a regular eye exam,” said Schlussel.
2. Take Breaks
For every 20 minutes of computer use, look away for 20 seconds at a distant object, recommends Schlussel.
“Refocusing far away relaxes the muscles and alleviates the cramping of the muscles, so the muscles don’t get so strained,” he says.
“When you stare at something for a long time, as in a computer monitor, the natural tendency is to blink less frequently, which then leads to less production of tears and symptoms of dry eye.”
3. Practice Good Ergonomics
“The computer monitor should be at least 20 and 24 inches away and the person should be looking down towards the monitor at a 15 degree angle,” said Schlussel.
“People should also try to get as large a monitor as possible, which makes it easier to read the fonts, especially for patients over 40 who may be developing symptoms of presbyopia – a [natural] change in a person’s vision that requires people at that age to require reading glasses.”
4. Consider Investing in a Pair of Computer Glasses
“Computer glasses can help reduce the strain of the eyes for anyone,” said Schlussel.
“Older patients that wear progressive lenses would benefit from a separate pair of computer glasses prescribed by their optometrist, which would be designed for the computer distance and their computer needs.”
The pixels of the letters on computer screens are brighter in the center as opposed to outside, making it harder for our eyes to focus on text, according to the American Optometric Association.
But electronic screens aren't the only screens that can cause eye strain and, eventually, CVS.
“It could be anything that involves reading small print, but it’s accentuated when you look at a computer monitor that is lit up with small fonts,” said Schlussel.