*Disclaimer* This program offers health and nutritional information and is for educational and informational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your eye health, you should always consult with a professional. Do not disregard, avoid, or delay obtaining medical or health-related advice from your health-care professional because of something you may have read on this site.
Are digital devices causing too much strain on our eyes?
Yes, definitely! Especially if you compare it to 10 -15 years ago, whereby the use of smartphone is not that common. Back then, most people were still reliant on traditional printed media such as newspaper, magazines and books for their reading pleasure. Reading distance was further away as compared to when we are using digital devices(1).
With us living in this digitalised world now, we are surrounded by all kinds of digital gadgets, be it laptops, tablets, smartphones or even smartwatches. With the different functional apps available, we can literally work with just our smartphones, connecting us to the rest of the world 24/7. In fact, 89% of us uses our smartphone for work(2) and 70% of us uses more than one device(3). Checking messages and mails while we’re commuting has become part and parcel of our daily lives. Our eyes got to work even harder especially when we have to quickly and frequently change our gaze from our smartphone to our surroundings when moving around. Hence, further straining our eyes.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home has become a norm and it forces more of us to be connected through internet via our digital gadgets. Virtual work meetings and social gatherings have become daily affairs. Being home most of the time also means that we are hardly looking more than a room distance away with little chance of relaxing our eyes’ muscles.
All of these may result in digital eye strain which is eye fatigue that mostly happens due to overexertion. Our eye has an auto-focusing system very much like that of a camera. It allows us to focus quickly and seamlessly across various distances. However, the closer the reading distance, the more work is needed for our eyes. After long periods of reading and working on digital screens without taking a break, you may experience digital eye strain.
1. Bababekova, Yuliya, Mark Rosenfield, Jennifer E. Hue, and Rae R. Huang. 2011. “Font Size and Viewing Distance of Handheld Smart Phones.” Optometry and Vision Science 88(7):795–97.
2. Deloitte LLP. (2017). State of the smart – Consumer and business usage patterns. Global Mobile Consumer Survey 2017: UK Cut
3. The Vision Council. (2016). Eyes overexposed: The digital device dilemma. 2016 Digital eye strain report: https://visionimpactinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/2016EyeStrain_Report_WEB.pdf (US Survey)
What are the other factors that may cause digital eye strain?
Other than prolonged digital device use, the following conditions may be a contributing factor to digital eye strain. Poor lighting, glare from digital screens, uncorrected vision problems and poor reading posture.
There are many different eye discomfort symptoms, which is the most prominent sign to identify eye strain?
With digital eye strain, you may experience(4); Eye pain, dry eyes, blurry vision. light sensitivity, neck and shoulder aches and headaches.
One of the more prominent symptoms to identify digital eye strain would be blurry vision that is usually experienced towards the end of the day. You may start out the day fine with a clear vision but after a long day at work, staring at digital gadgets without taking visual breaks, you will notice your vision starting to get blurry. And it doesn’t get better by blinking or rubbing your eyes. The blur experienced is mostly temporary and may go away after taking a break but it may get annoying especially if it causes you to see the wrong figures and embarrassing if you were to wave hello to the wrong person.
4. American Optometric Association. Computer vision syndrome. 2017. https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/protecting-your-vision/computer-vision-syndrome?sso=y
How can we prevent or relieve digital eye strain?
There are a few tips for preventing or relieving the symptoms of digital eye strain.
Take regular visual breaks: The most important tip is to take regular visual breaks. Don’t get too caught up in your work! Look up from your digital screen every 20 minutes, focus at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This is what we term as the 20-20-20 rule which is simple to remember even for kids.
Blink, blink, blink: You can also try to blink more often! When we are concentrating on our work, we tend to forget about blinking or only lower down our lids partially. This can cause dry eyes so focus on taking long deep blinks when you are on your visual breaks too!
Moisten your eyes: However, if you still suffer from dry eyes after, schedule an eye health check and speak to your optometrist on artificial tears or lubricating eye drops to keep your eyes moist.
Limit screen time: Other than taking visual breaks, you should also try to limit your screen time. This tip is even more important for children, as less screen time means more time outdoors, which can help to slow down their myopia progression. Clinical studies have shown that spending 10 hours every week outdoors will reduce the chance of a child developing myopia by 20%(5)! Therefore, it’s very important especially for parents in Singapore to take note of that, as we have one of the highest myopia rates in the world. 8 out of 10 young Singaporean adults aged 20 years old are myopic(6). If parents do not manage their child’s myopia while they are young, it might progress to high myopia which may result in eye diseases such as myopic maculopathy and retinal detachment in the future(7).
Avoid blue light before bedtime: It’s best to limit screen time especially before bedtime as all digital gadgets emit some form of blue light and this causes our body to release less melatonin which is a sleeping hormone. It tricks our bodies to think it’s not the time for bed, meaning to say we will be more alert and kept awake for a longer period of time. Sleep is essential to relieving digital eye strain, so remember to avoid using your smartphone before bedtime!
Make healthy choices: Hydration is key to keeping our eyes moist so drink plenty of water! And of course, having a healthy diet of green leafy vegetables and fruits rich in lutein, zinc, vitamin A, C & E as well as omega 3 fatty acids is good for our eyes too. Some examples would be spinach, carrots, and kiwi fruit.
Create an ergonomic work station: It’s so easy to quickly flip your laptop open and answer a quick email on the sofa in front of the TV. But soon one email becomes ten, and before you know it you’ve spent hours working in an uncomfortable position that leads to postural pain and worsens eye strain. Create an ergonomic workstation whether in your office or at home. Connecting laptops to a bigger monitor at eye-level at a distance as far away as possible for clear vision, and ensuring you are seated in a comfortable chair, with your feet firmly on the floor and your arms resting lightly on the desk while you type, will help prevent bad posture and reduce the strain put on your eyes’ focusing system.
Get regular eye examination: Uncorrected vision problems like astigmatism and presbyopia can be a contributing factor to digital eye strain. Your eyes will have to work extra hard to focus which can get tiring. So do get regular eye checks at least once a year to ensure your prescription is updated.
Get prescribed with Digital Lenses: Last but not least, get yourself a pair of digital lenses that offer the perfect remedy by enabling fast and comfortable focusing. Recommended for users in their 30s who use digital gadgets for a long period of time and suffer from digital eye strain.
5. Xiong, Shuyu at al. «Time spent in outdoor activities in relation to myopia prevention and control: a meta-analysis and systematic review”.- Acta Ophthalmol. 2017 Sep;95(6):551-566
7. Flitcroft DI. The complex interactions of retinal, optical and environmental factors in myopia aetiology. Prog Retin Eye Res 2012;31:622–60.
What is ZEISS SmartLife Digital Lens?
It is an optical lens that not only provides us with additional support so that our eye’s focusing system can take a breather when doing near tasks, it is specifically designed for a connected and on-the-move lifestyle, taking individual and age-related needs into account.
ZEISS did a Dynamic Gaze Study(8), looking at the effects that smartphones have on gaze behaviour in everyday situations. We found that our visual behaviour changes when using digital gadgets. There is a downward shifted gaze, meaning to say we tend to roll our eyes to look through the lower part of the lens. Hence, we took that information and incorporate it into the design fingerprint of our SmartLife Digital Lenses.
It also takes into account the fact that our pupil size gets smaller and smaller as we grow older, and so we optimise the vision for the user based on their age.
The effectiveness of ZEISS Digital Lenses has been proven in external consumer acceptance tests carried out with smartphone and tablet users. 73% did not feel strained eyes at the end of the day and the majority reported feeling less eyestrain compared to their habitual lenses(9).
Other than what I have already mentioned, you could also customise the lenses based on how your frame is fitted on your face with ZEISS FaceFit Technology. Everyone has different facial anatomy and different preferences as to how you would like a frame to be worn, and therefore the same frame when fitted on my face and yours could be different. Such as how far the lenses is away from your eyes, how tilt and wrap around the frame is on your face. ZEISS offers a SmartLife Digital individual series which allows such customisation to be done to further optimise your vision and comfort.
ZEISS SmartLife Digital lens
- Enables relaxed vision and outstanding visual acuity when using smartphones or tablet PCs, making it easier for your eyes to focus.
- Offers comfortable close-up vision relaxes your eye muscles while maintaining sharp focus.
- Suitable for all the situations you might encounter during the course of the day
- Equipped with ZEISS DuraVision BlueProtect coating which filters out harmful blue light, reducing digital dazzle or glare.
- Full UV protection up to 400nm.
8. Dynamic gaze study – Changes in gaze behavior through digital devices. ZEISS Vision Science Lab, Institute for Ophthalmic Research, University of Tubingen, 2019.
How does a pair of ZEISS SmartLife Digital Lens work?
It is very similar to progressive lenses which are used by people with presbyopia, just that it’s meant for younger people. There’s 2 different part to the lenses. The top portion is used to correct for far vision and the power gradually reduces to the bottom portion for reading vision. It has a very wide distance viewing portion mimicking that of a single vision lens and a wide near area for comfort reading. So when you are looking at something in the distance, just look straight ahead and when you are using your smartphones or doing any near work, roll your eyes to the bottom of the lens.
The reason why there is a reduced power at the bottom part of the lens is that when reading at near distance, we do not actually need the full prescription that we need for distance. By slightly reducing the power, SmartLife Digital lenses enable relaxed vision and outstanding visual acuity when using smartphones, tablets, and PCs, making it easier for your eyes to focus. It offers comfortable close-up vision, relaxes your eye muscles while maintaining sharp focus. The perfect solution to digital eye strain.
8. https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/uv-protection , Accessed 4/8/2020
9. External consumer acceptance test on the ZEISS SmartLife lens portfolio, n=52 study participants. Aston Optometry School, Aston University, UK, 2019.
How is ZEISS SmartLife Digital Lens different from computer lenses in the market?
Most people when referring to computer lenses meant lenses with a blue light filter coating which helps to reduce the harmful blue-violet light that comes mainly from sunlight, and to a smaller extent from digital screens. Clinical studies have shown that too much light in the ultraviolet and blue-violet bands can permanently damage the human eye, especially the retina. The good news is that none of the studies carried out so far suggest that using digital screens for a long period of time damages the retina.
The blue light filter coating can help to reduce the glare coming off a bright digital screen which can be irritating or tiring to some people. However, it does not mitigate the eye strain felt from overworking our eyes’ focusing system. ZEISS SmartLife Digital Lens also comes equipped with ZEISS DuraVision BlueProtect coating reducing digital eye strain caused by both eye fatigue due to prolonged near work and glare coming off digital screens. So you get the best of both worlds! Plus it offers full UV protection up to 400nm, giving you all the protection that you need.
Bababekova, Yuliya, Mark Rosenfield, Jennifer E. Hue, and Rae R. Huang. 2011. “Font Size and Viewing Distance of Handheld Smart Phones.” Optometry and Vision Science 88(7):795–97.
Deloitte LLP. (2017). State of the smart – Consumer and business usage patterns. Global Mobile Consumer Survey 2017: UK Cut
The Vision Council. (2016). Eyes overexposed: The digital device dilemma. 2016 Digital eye strain report: https://visionimpactinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/2016EyeStrain_Report_WEB.pdf (US Survey)
American Optometric Association. Computer vision syndrome. 2017. https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/protecting-your-vision/computer-vision-syndrome?sso=y
Xiong, Shuyu at al. «Time spent in outdoor activities in relation to myopia prevention and control: a meta-analysis and systematic review”.- Acta Ophthalmol. 2017 Sep;95(6):551-566
Flitcroft DI. The complex interactions of retinal, optical and environmental factors in myopia aetiology. Prog Retin Eye Res 2012;31:622–60.
Dynamic gaze study – Changes in gaze behavior through digital devices. ZEISS Vision Science Lab, Institute for Ophthalmic Research, University of Tubingen, 2019.
External consumer acceptance test on the ZEISS SmartLife lens portfolio, n=52 study participants. Aston Optometry School, Aston University, UK, 2019.
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