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Staring At Screens Can Change Eyes

Jun 19, 14 Staring At Screens Can Change Eyes

According to a new study from Japan, those who spend long hours looking at computer screens can have changes to their tear fluid. This can create a situation similar to the disease known as “dry eye.”

Reuters, via the Huffington Post, reported that researchers at the School of Medicine at Keio University in Tokyo, found that those who spend the most time looking at a computer had lower levels of the protein MUC5AC — which is normally secreted by cells and keeps eyes dry.

Part of this comes down to the fact that when we look at a computer screen, we tend to blink less, and that we often open our eyes wider when doing other tasks. While this can lead to a chronic problem, it is one that can be controlled.

Eye drops, changing the angle of the display/monitor and even adding some humidity to the room can help improve conditions. Of course, as with use of computer, simply taking a break can help as well.

As someone who spends much of the day in front of computer monitors for my work, I can attest that I take studies like this seriously. Eye strain has the potential to make it difficult to do my job, and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found the need to actually increase font sizes just to make text easier to read.

At the same time, I’ve relied on wrist pads for the mouse, a natural keyboard and an ergonomic chair to ensure good posture. Repetitive stress injury has long been a concern, but for a long time I’ve worried about eye strain — if not exactly “dry eyes.”

In fact, as my friend and colleague Geoffrey Morrison noted for Cnet a while back, eye strain can be a problem not just for computer users but also TV viewers.

For decades teachers and parents have warned about the dangers of “sitting too close” to the TV and how it could hurt the eyes.

Most of that has been debunked. While sitting too close or even watching too much — a teacher of mine many years ago claimed watching “too much” TV would result in blindness — won’t hurt the eyes, viewing in a dark room can result in eye strain.

Part of the reason is that displays — TVs and most monitors — are very bright to compensate for ambient light conditions. When there is no light, this can be intensely bright, far brighter than the image cast in a movie theater. So, while some people may like the movie theater experience with a TV by turning off the lights, the truth is that the lumens are much higher. That, in turn, can cause eye strain.

“One of the most common causes of eye strain is watching a small, bright object in an otherwise dark room,” Morrison explained. “Because the room is otherwise dark, your irises are wide open, allowing lots of light to enter. The TV, being a small percentage of your overall field of view, doesn’t cause your irises to close as much as they should.”

As for eye strain from dry eyes, the best solution is to use the drops, add some humidity to the room and, of course, take those breaks when needed.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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