Digital Device Use Leads to Eye Strain, Even in Kids

One day after Sarah Hinkley had been working on her computer for about five hours, she noticed her eyes started to burn and feel dry. "My focus became blurry, like I was looking through a haze," she says.

As an optometrist, Hinkley knew exactly what was wrong. She was suffering from digital eye strain, also known as computer vision syndrome.

It's becoming a widespread problem as more people spend hours each day looking at computers, cellphones, iPads, tablets and other electronic devices, says Hinkley, a spokeswoman for the American Optometric Association and an associate professor at the Ferris State University Michigan College of Optometry. "It is rampant, especially as we move toward smaller devices and the prominence of devices increase in our everyday lives."

In fact, almost 70% of U.S. adults say they have experienced some of the symptoms of digital eye strain, according to a survey conducted for the Vision Council, a trade group for vision care products and services. About 60% of respondents say they spend at least six hours looking at screens daily.

The problem is starting to occur more frequently in youths, Hinkley says. "As children acquire cellphones at younger ages and are using them more frequently during the day, we are seeing the symptoms presenting in younger children more than we have before."

The symptoms may include dry, red and irritated eyes, fatigue, eye strain, blurry vision, problems focusing, headaches, neck and shoulder pain and possibly even words moving on the screen because of underlying eye alignment issues, which are binocular vision (how the eyes work together) problems, she says. The latter is not as common as dry eyes, eye strain and blurry vision.

There are some people who can use a computer for hours without any issues, but others who have an underlying dry eye issue may be bothered by...

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