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What Is the Long-Term Impact of Virtual Learning on Children’s Eyes?

Kids, like adults, are spending more time online. At some point during the COVID-19 pandemic, many children attended school via Zoom and completed assignments online. The trend toward more screen time — whether playing games or being in touch with friends — is likely to continue even after everyone returns to the classroom. 

We already know that prolonged screen time can cause digital eye strain as well as dry eye symptoms, among other problems in children and adults. There is some indication that extended exposure to blue light may impact the development of retinal cells. However, studies on actual subjects still need to be done to establish a clear connection. 

Dry Eyes

Spending a long time in front of screens can impact how quickly our tears evaporate, because we blink around 66% less when using a computer compared to other daily activities. When tears evaporate too quickly and aren’t replenished with blinking our eyes start to feel dry and gritty. So remember to blink every few seconds to prevent your eyes from drying out!

Blue Light Exposure

Screens, such as those that appear on computers, phones and tablets emit blue light. Recent studies have shown that overexposure to blue light can damage the retinal cells at the back of your eyes. This may increase the risk of vision issues such as age-related macular degeneration which eventually leads to permanent loss of vision. 

Excess blue light has also been shown to disrupt the circadian rhythms that regulate our sleep patterns, as it tricks your internal clock into thinking that it is the middle of the day. This may lead to difficulty in falling asleep, insomnia, and daytime fatigue.

Digital Eye Strain

Nearly 60% of people who routinely use computers or digital devices experience symptoms of digital eye strain — also called computer vision syndrome. Symptoms of eye strain include eye fatigue and discomfort, dry eye, headaches, blurred vision, neck and shoulder pain, eye twitching, and red eyes. 

Taking frequent breaks from your screen can help reduce eye strain and neck, back and shoulder pain during your workday.

It is recommended to take at least one 10-minute break every hour. During these breaks, stand up, move about and stretch your arms, legs, back, neck and shoulders to relieve tension and muscle aches. 

Also, look away from your computer at least every 20 minutes and gaze at a distant object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This relaxes the focusing lens inside the eye to prevent fatigue.

How to Make Virtual Learning Safer For Your Child

The following tips can lessen the impact of screens on your child’s eyes:

  • Reduce overall screen time 
  • Encourage frequent breaks
  • Use accessories that filter blue light (for example, blue light glasses)
  • Schedule regular eye exams

Make Sure Your Child Gets Routine Eye Exams

Children need comprehensive eye exams to assess the health of their eyes, correct their vision and spot potential problems which can affect learning and behavior. 

If you are concerned about the effect of virtual learning and screen time on your child’s eyes, or if you’re due for a checkup, schedule an eye doctor‘s appointment at Family Vision Center in Rockledge. 

Q&A

What are blue light glasses?

Blue light glasses, also known as computer glasses, effectively block the transmission of blue light emitted from devices and computer screens. They often include a coating to reduce glare to further reduce eye strain. These glasses can be purchased with or without a prescription. 

What’s the 20-20-20 rule?

If you find yourself gazing at screens all day, whether your computer, smartphone, iPad or television, you’re at risk of experiencing eye strain. So make sure you schedule frequent breaks from your screen and follow the 20-20-20 rule; every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. And while you’re at it, use this time to get up, walk around, and stretch. 

Why Are Blue Eyes More Sensitive To Light?

Did you know that blue eyes don’t contain any blue pigment? They appear blue due to how the light reacts with the structures of the iris. 

In fact, the top layer of a blue iris doesn’t contain any pigment at all. This lack of pigment is the reason that blue-eyed people may be more sensitive to bright light and have a greater need to wear sunglasses than their brown-eyed counterparts. 

Why Do Your Eyes Need Sun Protection? 

Eyes of all colors need shielding from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Exposure to UV light can contribute to the formation of short-term and long-term eye conditions such as corneal sunburn and macular degeneration. 

That’s why it’s so important to choose high-quality sunwear with 100% UV blocking lenses, and to throw on a sun hat for an added layer of protection. 

UV protection is important for individuals of all ages—especially children—who are more susceptible than adults to the sun’s harmful rays, and tend to spend more time outdoors. It is estimated that up to 80% of a person’s lifetime exposure to UV rays happens before the age of 18. 

Why are Blue Eyes More Sensitive to Light? 

Lighter colored eyes like blue, hazel and green have less of a pigment called ‘melanin’ than brown eyes do. 

Melanin helps protect the retina from UV damage and blue light, putting those with blue eyes at a higher risk of developing UV-related eye damage.

If you have blue eyes, you may have experienced this first-hand. Bright light may be uncomfortable or you may want to reach for your shades as soon as you leave the house on a sunny day.

That’s why optometrists urge blue-eyed patients to be particularly vigilant about UV protection, so as to mitigate their chances of developing eye disease and other complications. 

How We Can Help

Whether you have blue eyes or not, sunglasses are an important part of keeping your eyes healthy for a lifetime. 

At Family Vision Center, we’ll be happy to advise on the perfect high-quality and protective pair of sunglasses to suit your needs and personal style. 

To learn more about the eye care services we offer or to schedule an eye exam, contact Family Vision Center in Rockledge today!

Q&A: 

#1: Should I wear sunglasses even when it’s not sunny outside? 

Yes! You should wear your sunglasses whenever outdoors during the day, even on an overcast, winter day. UV light can pass through clouds and reflect off surfaces like car windows and pavement.

#2: What type of sunglasses are the most suitable for blue eyes? 

The most protective sunglasses are wraparound sunglasses that protect the eyes from every angle. You can also opt for photochromic lenses, which offer total UV protection but only become tinted when exposed to outdoor sunlight, and turn clear when you come indoors again. Your optometrist can help you choose the best lens and frame options for your needs and lifestyle. 

Computer Lenses – Blue Light & Digital Eye Strain

Blue Light & Digital Eye Strain Eye Doctor Near You

Can Too Much Blue Light Hurt My Eyes?

When people think of workplace dangers to the eyes, it is usually machinery, chemicals or construction materials that come to mind. However, a growing danger to the eyes is one that may be less obvious – exposure to blue light from digital devices, television and computer screens and artificial lighting.

While the long-term effects of blue light or high-energy visible (HEV) light emission are not yet fully known, what is known is that blue light is a cause of computer vision syndrome (CVS) and sleep disruptions. 60% of people spend more than 6 hours a day in front of a digital device and 70% of adults report some symptoms of computer vision syndrome (CVS) which include eyestrain, headaches, blurred or double vision, physical and mental fatigue, dry or watery eyes, difficulty focusing, sensitivity to light, or neck, shoulder or back pain (caused by compromised posture to adjust to vision difficulty). Most people do nothing to ease their discomfort from these symptoms because they are not aware of the cause.

In its natural form, blue light from the sun is actually beneficial to your body by helping to regulate your natural sleep and wake cycles – also known as your circadian rhythm. It can also boost your mood, alertness and overall feeling of well-being. However, prolonged exposure to artificial sources of blue light, such as that found in electronic devices, television and energy-efficient fluorescent and LED lights, has been shown to cause disruptions in the circadian rhythm as well as more serious vision problems. Researchers at Harvard University have linked blue light with damage to the retina at the back of your eyes, indicating that long-term exposure to blue light could be linked to age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and possibly other serious health and vision problems.

Since 43% of adults work at jobs that require prolonged use of a computer, tablet or other digital monitor, blue light is an increasingly serious threat to your vision, health and productivity. There are a number of options for reducing your exposure to blue light which include computer glasses, specialized lenses and protective coatings. Speak to our eye care professionals to determine which option is best for you.

Single Vision Computer Glasses

  • Provide the optimum lens power and field of view for viewing your computer screen without straining or leaning in to reduce symptoms of CVS. These are ideal for when the computer is at a fixed working distance, and work well if the user needs to view multiple screens at the same working distance.

Office Lenses or Progressive Lenses

  • No-line multifocal eyewear that can be made to correct near, intermediate and some distance vision with a larger intermediate zone for computer vision if indicated. Perfect for those with presbyopia which is the gradual loss of focusing ability that occurs naturally with age. Office lenses work like progressive lenses but provide a wider field of view for intermediate (1-3 m) viewing distance and near working distance (about 40 cm).

Blue-Blocking Lenses

  • Definitely recommended for this electronic age, blue-blocking lenses block blue light emitted from computer screens that is associated with glare, eye strain and possible sleep disturbances.
  • Anti-glare and filtering coatings (treatments): Eliminate reflections from the surfaces of your lens to reduce eye strain and discomfort from glare. Some coatings can also block blue light emitted from computer screens.

While all of these are good options for protecting your eyes, the 20/20/20 rule still applies – after every 20 minutes of near tasks, look at something beyond 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds…it’s a good time to stretch the rest of the body too.

Additionally, diets high in lutein and zeaxanthin, which are carotenoids found in dark, leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale are protective to blue light damage.

A note about children and blue light:

Children are more prone to blue light damage than adults because the natural lenses in their eyes are so clear that blue light passes easily through to reach the retina. Adults are somewhat less prone since the older we get our natural lenses to become more cloudy and blue light does not pass through quite as easily. Pediatricians recommend that young children under the age of two should get ZERO screen time. They have much better ways of developing their eyesight with activities requiring hand-eye coordination with high contrast physical objects.

Technology is advancing the world, and our jobs and daily lives will only continue to rely upon it. Don’t let technology get in the way of your vision and your health. Ask us about the best solution for you.

At Family Vision Center, we put your family’s needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain a healthy vision. Call us today: 321-616-7077 or to request an appointment to see one of our Rockledge eye doctors.

COVID-19: Protect Your Eyes From Too Much Screen Time

You and your children are likely spending more time on mobile devices and computer screens than ever before. Too much time spent staring at screens can cause computer vision syndrome, or digital eye strain, in certain people. While not serious, this condition can be very uncomfortable, potentially causing:

  • Headaches
  • Eyestrain
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry eyes
  • Insomnia
  • Tiredness

Below are some useful tips to help you and your children avoid computer vision syndrome:

Blink more! 

Staring at a screen strains the eyes more than reading printed material because people tend to blink 30-50% less. This can also cause your eyes to dry out. Be mindful of blinking and make it a habit when focusing on a screen, as it will keep your eyes healthy and lubricated.

Follow the 20-20-20 Rule 

Give your eyes a break every 20 minutes by looking at an object located 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Doing so will allow your eyes to relax and will give both you and your eyes some rest.

Keep your distance

Your eyes work harder to see close up than at a distance. Try keeping your monitor or screen at arm’s length, or about 25 inches away.

Lighting matters

Make sure that your surrounding light is similar in strength to the light emanating from your screen. Contrasting levels of light, such as looking at a bright screen in a dark room, can strain the eyes.

Take breaks from the screen

You may want to stipulate ‘screen free’ time for yourself and/or your children, such as during meal times or for several hours throughout the day. Engage in hobbies that don’t require a screen, such as drawing, reading books, doing puzzles, playing an instrument or cooking (among many others).

Don’t use devices before bed

Studies show that blue light may affect your body’s circadian rhythm, also known as the natural wake and sleep cycle. Stop using screens one to two hours before bedtime or use nighttime settings to minimize blue light exposure.

Although it may require a bit of planning to protect your family’s eyes during this stressful time, ultimately, it’s all about balance — and what works for you and your family may differ from others.

From all of us at Family Vision Center at Rockledge, we wish you good health and please stay safe.