Study finds more young adults suffering digital eye strain

MINNEAPOLIS -- Technology is great but what it is doing to our eyes isn't the best. A new study released by the Vision Council revealed nearly 70 percent of U.S. adults experience digital eye strain as a result of the growing use of computers, laptops, tablets and smart phones.

Digital eye strain is the temporary discomfort that follows from two or more hours of digital device use. Dr. Courtland Watson, an optometrist who has multiple offices in the Twin Cities, says the study confirms the change he has seen in patients.

Watson says he has been treating more young adults with digital eye strain.

"It used to be something that people over 40 had. Then we would help them be able to read up close," he said. "I will, everyday prescribe glasses just for computer use to a minimum of 20 percent of my patients. Most of them get by without a special pair of glasses but a lot will not."

Kayla Jain, 23, is one of Watson's patients who noticed symptoms of digital eye strain.

"My eyes would get really, not heavy, but they would just start throbbing. Then I started to get pain in the front of my head," she said. "I have a tablet that has a screen cover that cuts out the glare, which helps."

But Jain isn't alone. A recent study shows nearly 70 percent of U.S. adults experience digital eye strain as a result of using computers, tablets and smartphones. 18 to 34-year-olds report feeling eye strain at a higher rate. Watson, who has been in the business 26 years, says younger patients are wearing lenses typically issued to patients in their 40's.

Like it or not, some people don't have the option to not use digital devices. The tools are requirements for their jobs. Watson says you can take steps to minimize harm. The first step is what he calls the '20-20-20 rule.'

Watson says every 20 minutes you want to at least look 20 feet away at something else for 20 seconds. This exercise reduces strain on your eyes. To reduce headaches and neck cramps Watson suggest maintaining good posture.

"You want to be about arm's length so you are giving your computer a high five here. You also want to be about four to eight inches over your line of site, and what that does is put you in the correct posture," Watson said.

To preserve eye health and help adults adapt to digital life, the optical industry is investing in new lens technologies to minimize eye strain as an increasing number of people from all age groups spend more time in front of screens. Click here to see the complete study.


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