Too much time spent staring at a screen, such as when you are reading on your smartphone, playing video games, watching TV, or browsing the internet, can be harmful to your eyes.
All that screen-gazing can lead to myopia, dry eyes and headaches. A lack of proper eye care after developing myopia, which is the proper term for short-sightedness, can make it worse, and puts you at risk of developing other diseases like glaucoma. In fact, you can even put yourself at risk of retinal detachment. Young Post asked Chinese University’s Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences assistant Professor Jason Yam Cheuk-sing, for some healthy eye tips.
According to a study in 2011 conducted by Polytechnic University and the Hong Kong Paediatric Foundation, approximately 70 per cent of the participants look literally too closely at their screens.
To lower your chances of developing myopia and other eye-related diseases, Yam says; “You should keep [a distance of] at least 30cm from your smartphones. For iPad users or e-book readers, your face should be at least 40cm from the screen. The minimum distance between your eyes and a TV/computer screen should be at least 50cm. Being too close to a screen leads to eye strain.”
“Although there is no scientific evidence that using smartphones on a bus or on the train will harm your eyes, you might feel uncomfortable and develop a headache because your eyes need to catch up with the objects on the screen,” says Yam.
In the New England Journal of Medicine in June 2016, doctors referred to the cases of two women who suffered “transient smartphone blindness” for several months. These patients were found to have the habit of checking their smartphones in the dark while lying in bed.
Yam agrees that you should not use your smartphone, play computer games or read in the dark as it takes a while for your eyes to adjust to the lower light.
“These cases of blindness are uncommon, but reading in the dark can [mean you] risk a higher degree of myopia and will exhaust your eyes.”
After you have spent 20 minutes reading, gaming, playing on your smartphone or using a computer, give your eyes a 20- second break by looking at something in the distance – that is, something at least six metres – which is 20 feet in old measurements – away from you.
“Simply closing your eyes doesn’t mean you’re taking a rest. Look away from the screens and view some distant object. When you’re focused on a particular point such as when you’re using a computer, your ciliary muscles are contracted. Your eyes will get tired as these muscles are tensed. You can relax these muscles by looking at something far away. Simply look at the sky to reduce eye strain,” Yam says. Stretch your break even further by going outside – research suggests that sunlight can help to slow myopia.
Although there is no scientific evidence that blue light from electronic devices is related to macular degeneration – a condition which can lead to blurred or no vision, Yam says you can use blue light screen protectors to alleviate the potential strain on your eyes.
You can use lubricant eye drops or gel if your eyes feel sore or dry. These artificial tears, Yam says, will moisturise your eyes. But don’t overdo it.
“Using eye drops only serves as temporary relief for your eye strain – it’s better to take a break after a long period of smartphone or computer use. Ask for medical advice if your eye problems persist,” Yam suggests, “and have your eyes checked regularly.”