Overexposure to Blue Light Can Cause More than Eye Strain


In this technology-driven world, regular exposure to blue light from digital devices is inevitable.

Computer screens at home and at work, flat-screen televisions, smartphones and tablets are prime sources of high-energy, short-wavelength blue light, and many of us spend hours staring at them. The 2016 American Eye-Q Survey conducted by the American Optometric Association (AOA) found that while 88 percent of Americans are aware that digital devices can negatively affect vision, the average person still spends at least seven hours a day looking at screens. The survey also found that the average millennial spends nine hours a day on devices that emit blue light.

Computer Vision Syndrome, or digital eye strain, is probably the complication of prolonged exposure to blue light most people are familiar with. But too much blue light affects more than eye health. In addition to blurred vision and dry eyes, it could lead to sleep problems, headaches, neck and shoulder pain, and other problems. These symptoms can result from things like lighting issues, improper viewing angles, poor seating posture, and uncorrected vision problems such as astigmatism-a defect in the cornea-and farsightedness.

Don't worry: Staring at digital devices for long periods doesn't cause serious or permanent eye damage. But you should still take steps to stop the recurrence of bothersome symptoms.

The first thing you should do is get a comprehensive, routine eye exam, which, among other state-of-the-art ophthalmic services, is offered at The Krieger Eye Institute

Here's what else you can do to limit your exposure to blue light:

  • Cut down on your digital device usage before turning in. Nighttime exposure to blue light can make it difficult to fall asleep. Consider turning off your digital devices about an hour before bedtime.
  • Adjust your digital device accordingly. You can dim the glare from screens by modifying your brightness and color temperature settings or using a glare filter. Smartphones, for instance, allow you to set your own brightness level or have screen brightness adjusted automatically via a sensor as per your surroundings. Some phones also have a built-in blue light filter. A popular app called f.lux, available for Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, some Android phones and jailbroken iOS devices, can adjust the color temperature of your screen according to location and time of day. (Apple devices aren't compatible with f.lux, but have a "Night Shift" option that works similarly.) Third-party filtering apps also are available for smartphones, tablets and laptops.
  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule. Many eye health experts recommend taking a 20-second screen break every 20 minutes and looking at something 20 feet away. This strategy can help reduce or prevent eye strain. It also might not be a bad idea to do some extra blinking during those breaks. You tend to blink considerably less while focused on digital screen devices, and that could lead to dry, uncomfortable eyes. Regular breaks from your computer station may also help with neck and shoulder pain. You can also try adjusting the height of your chair so that your feet rest flat on the floor. The AOA says the arms of your chair should be adjusted to provide arm support while you are typing. Avoid resting your wrists on the keyboard when typing.
  • Keep your distance. Put some space between you and your PC, and don't hold your smartphone or tablet so close to your face. Use the zoom feature to view small print instead of bringing your digital device closer to your eyes. Also, sit about 20 inches, or arm's length, from your computer monitor. If possible, position your monitor perpendicular to the window, and so the top line of your screen is at or below eye level. Optimally, the screen should be 15 to 20 degrees (about 4 or 5 inches) below eye level as measured from the center of the screen, and 20 to 28 inches from the eyes, the AOA says.

At The Krieger Eye Institute, our expert ophthalmologists help patients suffering from the symptoms of eye strain and overexposure to blue light. With the Krieger Eye Institute at Northwest Hospital, Sinai Hospital and at Quarry Lake, you have access to specialists, technologies and personalized care that you deserve. If you experience any of these symptoms or want more tips for eye health, schedule an appointment at The Krieger Eye Institute by calling 410-601-2020.