When jobs and schools transitioned to a work from home situation because of COVID-19, screen time skyrocketed and, consequently, so did cases of myopia or nearsightedness in both children and adults. Recent studies have shown there is a link between increased screen time and myopia or other problems like eye strain, blurred vision, headaches and sleep disruption.1 The eye experts at Colorado Ophthalmology Associates explain how increased, unrelenting eye strain from computer, tablet, smart phone, video game or television use can harm your vision.
Myopia—or nearsightedness—is an eye focusing disorder, rather than a disease.2 The problem occurs in the refraction of light. The eye may be shaped long, causing the light to focus in front of the retina instead of on it. Or, the cornea may be formed too steep. The result is close objects are clear, but far away objects are blurry.
In addition to decreased vision, myopia can increase a person’s risk for other eye conditions2 such as:
- Detached retina
The link between computer use and myopia
In the United States, cases of myopia in children have more than doubled in the past 50 years.3 The highest prevalence of increased myopia was in children of the age of six.4 Additionally, ophthalmologists have seen a marked increase in myopia in adults.5 Through these studies and more, it is well documented that the cases of myopia have increased in conjunction with the digital age.
Prevention of myopia
When using a digital device for extended periods of time, we recommend the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Being near a window and setting a recurring alarm can help with this goal, though it is important to keep glare off your screen. Set a visual reminder to blink more frequently to prevent dry eyes and increased eye strain.
For children, set an alarm for computer use or space out bookmarks or paperclips to remind them to take an eye break when reading a book. Limit unnecessary screen time and increase outdoor play time. Train children to use screens 24 inches or farther away, rather than under 12 inches which is too close to the eyes. Use UV protection sunglasses.
The most important thing you can do to protect your vision or your child’s vision is to keep regular visits with your ophthalmologist to closely track any vision changes or strains that may be occurring without your knowledge.
Cure for myopia
While there is no cure for myopia, refractive surgery might be possible to correct the vision. Otherwise, corrective devices will be required, such as contact lenses or eyeglasses. Additionally, some studies have documented success with low-dose atropine treatments.6
Make an appointment today
If you have accelerated your use of screens and have noticed a change in your vision or an increase in eye strain, call us today for an appointment and come to one of our two Colorado locations for a consultation. Our board-certified ophthalmologists are available to evaluate your eye health and to help protect your vision during this time of increased close work and highly concentrated screen time.