If you’re like most people working in an office, staring at a computer screen takes up most of your waking hours. As if the day wasn’t stressful enough, employees in the modern era have digital eye strain to worry about on top of excessive work demands — and it’s a real thing. According to The Vision Council, 70% of Americans suffer from it.
Ever notice how wiped out your eyes feel after a long day? They may feel dry, weak and you might even develop headaches and blurred vision. That’s computer vision syndrome or digital eye strain.
“There are a few elements that contribute to the issue,” says Dr. Mark Blecher of Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia.
“You can get eye strain because you’re staring at a two-dimensional surface. Maintaining this focus can be exhausting. It’s like picking up a small hand weight at the gym and holding it without moving.”
He continues, “If you’re staring at something for a while, we don’t blink and therefore don’t produce tear foam. This is another factor to consider.”
Blecher assures that this problem is nothing new, however, and eye strain has been an issue even before the computer age, with reading books and magazines.
But how about that harmful blue light we’re hearing so much about? While natural sunlight contains a small amount, our digital devices require larger amounts of blue light to illuminate our screens and our eyes aren’t built to block it.
What’s more, studies cited by the American Optometric Association show that long term exposure to blue light contributes to “age-related macular degeneration.”
Scott Sorenson, President of Gunnars Optiks, a leading maker of computer glasses, believes his product provides protection against blue light through their tinted lenses — which reduce overall harshness.
“Blue light is the only light that goes through your cornea to the back of the retina,” he says. “It’s a brain stimulant. A natural cup of coffee. It tells your brain to stop producing melatonin and it’s time to be awake.” He adds, “This can be problematic when trying to get a restful night’s sleep.”
According to Sorenson, too much blue light contributes to a number of health problems, including diabetes, hormone issues and cataracts. “We filter out the bad blue light with our glasses,” he says.
Blecher has a different perspective, however: “If you don’t have blue light, that messes up your circadian rhythm,” he says.
“You don’t want to block out all the blue light. There are no easy answers to these issues.”
But how about the eye strain itself? Sorenson explains that his company’s glasses have a slight magnification. “They make your eyes think they’re looking further away. This helps the eye exhaustion aspect,” he says.
Desperate for relief, we decided to give the glasses a try. After two weeks of using them at the office, our eyes are much less fatigued at the end of the day. Not using them has become unthinkable. Do they completely eliminate eye strain? Definitely not. But they are helping minimize eye strain.
Dr. Blecher isn't convinced, however. When asked his thoughts on our Gunnar Glasses he says, “I tend to look at computer glasses skeptically. They’re selling something. I’m not in the position to critique it.”
He recommends using eye drops regularly and looking away from the computer screen every 15 minutes to combat digital eye strain.
For more information on Gunnar Optiks, visit:www.gunnars.com