More than 70 per cent of Albertans living with digital eye strain: survey

By Ashley Wiebe
May 25, 2017 - 4:25pm Updated: May 25, 2017 - 7:02pm


MEDICINE HAT, AB — A local optometrist knows our phones are usually the last thing we see before catching some shut eye.

It’s not uncommon for them to also be the first thing we see when we wake up.

But all of that screen time is having a negative impact on our eyes.

“You’ve got new gadgets, e-readers and tablets and phones,” said Dr. Justin Snell with Eye Solutions. “Everything’s getting used a lot more and so all of it seems to cause glare and just have its effect on your eyes throughout the day.”

A survey by the Alberta Association of Optometrists shows 71 per cent of Albertans are living with digital eye strain and stated that the average adult spends more than 10 hours every day on a digital device.

Digital eye strain can cause headaches, dry eyes, blurred vision and eye irritation. It can also cause pain in your back, neck or shoulders.

Linden Wallace, a mother of two, used to get headaches almost daily.

“I wouldn’t ever wake up with a headache, but I would notice it throughout the day, so by the end of the day, putting the kids to bed, I always had a headache,” she said.

The mother of two knew it wasn’t her children causing the pain she felt almost daily, but she wasn’t sure what may have been causing it.

“Every day I was reading on my phone,” she said. “I would get books on my phone and so then it was a long time just staring at my phone.”

Wallace also uses an e-reader.

She noticed her eyes would feel tired and her headaches only got worse as the day went on.

Snell said blue light can have an impact on a person’s eyes.

“The blue light is the highest energy light rays and so they’re the hardest to focus on,” he said. “They have the most energy coming at your eyes.”

Different apps help block out the colour and some phones even have a built-in setting to help remove the light and prevent digital eye strain.

But new blue light blocking lenses means your glasses can also block out the harmful light.

“They look almost like regular lenses but they do have a little bit of a purplish tint on them,” said Snell.

The survey also shows only four per cent of Albertans are using blue light blocking lenses.

“It’s just a little bit of a tint or an anti-glare type of coating that you can get on your glasses,” Snell added.

Snell said there are a few other ways to help give your eyes a break during the day, suggesting the 20-20-20 rule.

“Every 20 minutes, try to take a break, look 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds,” he said. “It’s just letting your eyes relax. The closer you look at something the more they have to work to focus.”

Wallace said she’d never worn glasses but it didn’t take her long to see and feel the difference.

“Even though when I take them off, I don’t notice right away that anything’s bothering me,” she said. “But it comes and pretty soon I start getting that bit of strain, a bit of a headache and I just realize, ‘oh, I need to put my glasses on’.”

Even her two girls understand how important her new glasses are.

“When I first got them, my daughter said ‘Mom, I think you’re nicer now that you have glasses’, and looking back, probably. I don’t have headaches anymore so I’m not as grumpy as I use to be,” she said, laughing.

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