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Are computers, tablet or smartphone screens detrimental to mine or my children's eyes?

Are computers, tablet or smartphone screens detrimental to mine or my children's eyes?

This is a question that Cheryl of Bridle Eyecare in Theale is frequently asked by her patients.

Cheryl is passionate about providing parents with the most accurate and up to date advice that is available.

She says that extremes are the main issue with anything in life but it's not easy to ‘harm’ your eyes through normal visual activity. It requires something like an eclipse burn or laser pen burn to cause permanent damage.

With prolonged screen activity, you may experience temporary discomfort but provided you remember to take a break periodically, problems can be avoided.

It’s been suggested that there is a link between excessive screen use and the development of myopia (short-sightedness) in children and in age-related macular degeneration but genetic factors are much more likely to contribute to these than technology addiction alone.

And it is in our teenage years that genes and rapid growth play the largest part in the development of short-sightedness. A 6 month or yearly sight test is a necessity at this age.

One interesting observation is the development in some people of pseudo-myopia i.e artificial short-sightedness. Although it can be quite long term, it is eventually reversible. It arises when there is excessive close work and the eye just fails to relax back to view objects in the distance.

Studies show that you should take a visual break from any screen every 20 minutes. Taking time out to refocus your eyes on something else seems so logical. The same rules apply for a book reading and home study!

Cheryl recommends a five or ten-minute break, some fresh air and getting some exercise.

Use of a blue light filter in prescription lenses could help with eye fatigue and tiredness.

She's also seen a rise in mental health and sleep pattern issues in young patients.

But it’s not only eyes that are affected by smartphone addiction. Maybe we need to consider a possible connection with a reported rise in disrupted sleep patterns and an increase in mental health issues in young people.

Cheryl says it's so easy to get immersed and addicted to the dopamine release in the brain.

Regarding macular degeneration, it is our genes, ethnicity and age are without a doubt the main contributory factors - and all of those are totally out of our control!  But certainly smoking, UV and short wavelength blue light can hasten the deterioration of our eye and all of those factors are most certainly within our control.

In my opinion and observation, healthy eyes are part of a healthy body which is helped by a good balance of work and rest, physically and mentally challenging activities, a variety of social activities and in the balance of foods we eat.

About the author

Interviewed Cheryl Bridle this year on a number of frequently asked questions.

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