Hargrave Eye CenterComputer vision syndrome (CVS) is the medical term for digital eye strain.  According to the 2015 Digital Eye Strain Report by The Vision Council, “Digital eye strain is the physical eye discomfort felt by many individuals after two or more hours in front of a digital screen.” From the moment people get up until the time they go to bed again– including when they are eating, exercising and reading– they are using their smartphones, tablets, computers, laptops and other electronic devices.  The use of such technology has increased each year since The Vision Council first conducted a survey on the topic in 2012.  According to the 2014 Vision Water survey results, nearly three in 10 adults (29.8 percent) are high users, spending more than nine hours each day using digital devices.

Usually digital eye strain is caused by overuse of digital devices and the eyes having to constantly refocus and reposition to process content like graphics and text. Digital content is created by thousands of pixels.  When spaced far apart these become distorted which causes stress and strain on the eyes. This is called pixilation.  But other causes like blinking your eyes can also be a contributing factor. Blinking moisturizes the eye and the average person blinks around 18 times per minute.  However, this is halved when looking at a computer or other digital device.  

After spending two or more hours looking at digital devices, you can experience dry eyes, blurred vision, irritation, eye fatigue, headaches and neck and back pain.  Dry eyes can result from reduced blinking rates. Headaches can be caused by repeated eye strain and general fatigue can occur from staring at screens and straining to see small fonts and images.

What’s most surprisingly, the report says, children aged between 8 and 18 are exposed to 17.5 more hours per week of digital media today than they were in the 1990s.  Take a look at the generational stats below:

Children (Born 1997-2014):

  • Nearly one in four kids spend more than three hours a day using digital devices (23.6 percent) and more than 15 percent of parents don’t limit their children’s screen time at all
  • More than one in five (22 percent) parents say they are very concerned about the potentially harmful impact of digital devices on developing eyes, one in three (30 percent) report not being concerned at all about this issue
  • Nearly one in three (30.6 percent) parents who say they are very concerned about the impact of digital devices on children’s eyes do not limit or allow more than three hours of screen time daily

Millennials (Born 1981-1996):

  • Nearly four in 10 millennials spend at least nine hours on digital devices each day (37.4 percent)
  • Nearly seven in 10 (68 percent) report symptoms of digital eye strain
  • Most millennials own a smartphone (84 percent)
  • Less likely than other generations to own a television (68 percent)
  • Nearly six in 10 (57 percent) take their smartphones to bed and use them as alarm clocks

Gen Xers (Born 1965-1980):

  • Nearly one-third of Gen X spends at least nine hours on digital devices each day (32 percent)
  • Six in 10 Gen Xers (63 percent) report symptoms of digital eye strain
  • Nearly three in four (74 percent) report not knowing that digital devices emit blue light, at wavelengths that can irritate or even harm vision
  • Gen Xers are more likely to own a tablets or e-readers compared to other age groups (48 percent)
  • More likely than other age groups to use digital devices for work and recreational reading

Boomers (Born 1946-1964):

  • One in four boomers (26 percent) spend at least nine hours on digital devices each day
  • 40 percent say they would wear computer eyewear if an eye care provider informed them of the potential danger of blue light emitted from digital devices
  • Experience symptoms of digital eye strain to a lesser degree than the other two groups, possibly due to less time spent in front of a screen at work (57 percent)
  • Boomers are more likely to own a TV compared to other age groups (81 percent)