Digital visual fatigue: how screens affect us

Digital visual fatigue derives from the indiscriminate use of devices with screens. Among these devices we have mobiles, computers, televisions and tablets, among others. In the near future we will add virtual reality helmets to the list, for example.

The mechanism by which digital visual fatigue is generated is the overexertion that the eye must perform. Precisely, the most affected part of it is the muscles that are responsible for accommodating vision, alternating between far and near.

Prolonged use of screens forces the eyes to work in near vision mode, with a certain configuration of the eye system. If we do not regularly separate the view from the screen to focus further, the effort is greater than it should be and fatigue appears.

This tiredness of the ocular muscular system makes focusing difficult. In digital visual fatigue, a decrease in the ability to focus at close range can be perceived. There is, then, a vicious circle that concatenates eye fatigue with other symptoms, such as itchy eyes.

Digital visual fatigue has been increasing in recent times. It is estimated that, among people who spend more than three hours per day in front of a screen, the prevalence of the condition is almost 100%.

Projections indicate that More than a third of those under fifteen will suffer from disorders linked to digital visual fatigue in the next year. This implies, even, the suffering of myopia because of the screens.

Symptoms of digital visual fatigue

There are four signs that are characteristic of digital visual fatigue and that usually occur together:

  • Eye itching: The need to rub your eyes is evident in those who suffer from fatigue. Some manifest a sensation of sand between the eyelids, or also as small pins pricking from inside. Itching results in scratching, and scratching can lead to redness and swelling.
  • Eyelid Edema: Either by scratching or by digital visual fatigue itself, the eyelids swell. Next to eyelid edema, there is red eye and tearing. The picture of bacterial conjunctivitis is differentiated by the absence of pus and lizards.
  • Headache: the poor accommodation suffered by eyes due to fatigue results in headache. In general, it is a headache located behind the eyes that tends to calm down by relaxing the vision, moving it away from the screens or seeking focus at a distant point.
  • Blurry vision: between the lack of accommodation of fatigue, redness of the eyes, eyelid edema and tearing, sharpness is lost. It is not the lack of sharpness of myopia or other pathologies, but it can be perceived as an intense blurred vision when there are already several hours in front of the screen.

Read on: 4 tricks to take care of tired eyes

The effect of blue light

The screens of our electronic devices emit a radiation known as blue light. This blue light is one of the main causes of digital visual fatigue. Inside the eye, the retina is the structure most damaged by blue light.

The blue-violet light is punctually found in the blue light spectrum. This is emitted by LED screens with a wavelength that hurts the eye structures. It has been noted that the retina ages early when exposed to blue-violet light.

On the other hand, we have the blue-turquoise light. This wavelength has been found to be not as harmful to eye structures. On the contrary, it would be a spectrum with benefits to maintain circadian cycles of wakefulness and sleep.

To counteract the effect of blue-violet light there are digital screen filters. The most used is a yellow filter that breaks down blue light. The first to use it were the gamers –Game players-, especially those who practiced night championships of their specialty.

Keep discovering: Keys to good visual hygiene

Prevention of digital visual fatigue

There are a number of measures that can be taken to prevent the onset of digital visual fatigue. Among them, we find:

  • Stop using screens momentarily: In the work with computers, especially, it is important to allocate moments to separate from the screen to do other things.
  • Adjust the ambient light: the eyes should not necessarily work with very powerful lighting or too dim lighting. The idea is that the environment is adequately illuminated so as not to have to overstress.
  • Look at the distance: something called the ‘20-20-20 rule’ has been proposed, which consists of stopping the use of the screens every twenty minutes for twenty seconds to look at something that is approximately twenty feet away, or a little more than six meters. The change of focus rests the view.
  • Massaging the eyes with cold: It should be done gently when the signs of digital visual fatigue begin. Ideally, use a cold gel that has been in the freezer and wrap it in a cloth to support it on the closed eyelids.
  • Reduce unnecessary use of screens: Perhaps, the most important thing, to incorporate it as a habit, would be to reduce the use of screens at times when it is unnecessary. It cannot be done in jobs that involve the use of a computer, but in the home, for example.

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