In this age of digital delights, we have the world at our fingertips 24/7 in the form of laptops, tablets and smart phones. Americans can be online anytime, yet it’s becoming a real pain. Pain in the neck, head and eyes, that is.
The American Optometric Association reports that 70-75% of computer workers report eye and vision problems. That’s not all. More and more of those who are experiencing eye pain are also complaining of headaches, too. What doctors and researchers are discovering is that it’s not the computer in your cubicle that’s the problem. It’s your smart phone.
Not-So-Smart Phone Use
In a study by the Journal of Vision, widely republished in several magazines and newspapers, a group of researchers tested over 124 people to determine if their smart phone screens could be the cause of an increasing numbers of patients complaining of vision problems, neck pain and headaches.
What they found was that while text on tablets and computers is comparable to newspaper print, the text on smart phones is about 30% smaller and, as a result, most of the study participants were observed holding their smart phone closer to their face to read.
From this data they reported that the demand on eyes was increased as they were constantly being taxed by what they called vergence-accommodation, the need for the eyes to constant focus and refocus on the smaller text of smart phone screens held very close to the face. This leads to visual discomfort, fatigue and even headaches, according to the study.
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One of the negative side effects of constantly having a smart phone to surf the net, browse websites, or look up nearby restaurants is that we are on them many more hours per day than we would be if they were merely phones. Constantly staring down at your smart phone screen held close to your face in order to read the tiny font on websites is causing us to do the following:
Blink less. Our eyes start to dry out and becoming irritated
Strain our necks constantly looking down leading to headaches
Squinting and tensing facial muscles to read the small phone screen as our eyes begin to fatigue, which is also headache inducing
Experience disconnect between our eyes and our body. Your eyes see moving icons on the smart phone screen and tell the brain we are in motion. The body begs to differ. The result can be nausea and dizziness.
Sleep less. Blue light from electronic devices like tablets, computers, televisions, and yes, smart phones, emit this light, which disrupts the release of melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep.
Smart-Smart Phone Use
The good news about viewing the screens of electronic devices is that it does not cause permanent eye damage. However, it can lead to blurred vision and red, dry, irritated eyes.
The better news is with a few simple steps you can avoid digital eyestrain and the other problems associated with it like headaches, sore neck muscles or dizziness.
Every hour you are using an electronic device, take a 15-minute break from it. Look about 20 feet in front of you, the distance that eyes start to relax, for a minute.
Stretch your neck, back and shoulders to relieve tight sore muscles.
Try palming. To do this simple exercise, (remove glasses if wearing them) close your eyes, place the center of your palms over your eyes, and take a few deep, slow breaths to relax your eye muscles.(Do not press on your eyeballs; avoid this if wearing contact lens.)
When you do look at your smart phone again, be conscientious about blinking regularly to keep your eyes from becoming dry.
Keep the screen as bright as possible.
Don’t look at electronic devices like a smart phone in pitch dark. Turn on a little light so your eyes don’t have to work as hard to see.
Enlarge the font on the screen whenever you can and hold the phone farther away from your face, about the length of your arm between the elbow and wrist.
If possible, use your smart phone primarily for talking, texting and listening to music. Spend the hours scrolling down Facebook or Twitter and surfing the web on a tablet or computer with larger fonts farther away from your face. Achieve this goal and you can avoid digital eyestrain and headaches.