Is Digital Eye Strain the 21st Century’s Black Plague?
In our current lexicon of overusing extreme adjectives like “epic” or adding “-magedon” to an event, like three inches of snow, it becomes difficult to figure out what is a real problem versus what is hype. I am not in “hype mode” when I say that digital eye strain is an epidemic and becoming pandemic in our modern digital society.
First, I will admit to taking liberties with the definitions. However, there are no better words to choose from. Being addicted to our phones, tablets, games, and screens is not a disease, though the societal influences have infectious traits. The iPhone just celebrated its 10th birthday, and addiction to it has spread over time. However as a piece of technology infiltrating our society and changing our behavior, that is a relative short time as compared to when the radio, TV, and personal computer influenced people's behaviour prior to their existence.
Digital Eye Strain Will Not Kill Anyone. So Why Care?
In my office the most common complaint related to digital eye strain is fluctuation of vision. Why is this happening? The focusing eye muscles are stressed with near demand -- that is looking at screens 12 to 24 inches away. It is inherently difficult to focus on a screen due to the nature of the blue light they emit. So while the eyes are searching for a target (back lit screen) to lock on to, they become even further stressed. This excessive repetitive motion leaves the muscle with the inability to relax and this is further exacerbated by creating a muscle memory response. Thus the eye muscles are consistently active in their “near state.”
You can simulate temporary muscle memory with the “floating arms trick.” Stand in a narrow doorway (like a pantry). Press the backs of your wrists against the door frame as hard as you can for a minute. Then step away from the doorway, letting your arms fall limp to your sides. Except they won’t! They will “float” up away from your body. Essentially your eyes are “pushing” on the screen hour after hour. When your head physically moves away from the screen your eyes still think they are in front of the screen and thus, fluctuating vision due to accommodative lock up.
Will all of our patients endure needless suffering due to digital eye strain-magedon? Only if we let them!