The Vision Council’s New Research Shows Digital Eye Strain Is Widespread, but Many Lack Awareness

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ALEXANDRIA, Va.—More than half of American adults suffer from digital eye strain resulting from prolonged and frequent use of smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices, according to a new survey from The Vision Council. The symptoms include neck and shoulder pain, headaches, eye strain, blurred vision and dry eyes. Yet close to 49 percent of American adults say they don’t know what digital eye strain is, and nearly 35 percent aren’t concerned about the impact of digital device usage on their eyes.

These findings, drawn from The Vision Council’s annual VisionWatch consumer survey, provide insights into our complex relationship with much of the digital technology that will be on vivid display at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which starts tomorrow in Las Vegas.

Not only are Americans are spending more time staring at screens, they are using multiple devices, The Vision Council said. More than 80 percent of adults report using digital devices for over two hours per day, and nearly 67 percent say they use two or more devices simultaneously. Moreover, close to 55 percent report looking at some type of screen in the first hour they’re awake, and nearly 80 percent say they use digital devices in the hour just before going to sleep.

Justin Bazan, optometrist and medical adviser to The Vision Council, believes consumers and eyecare professionals have reason to be concerned about this growing trend.

“Based on my experience and research, the light emitted from screens may be linked to issues with sleep, not to mention recurrent headaches, issues seeing content on a screen, and red, itchy and dry eyes,” said Dr. Bazan. “Regardless of whether my patients are experiencing these problems associated with prolonged digital device usage, it’s important for individuals to make their eye health—especially as it relates to digital eye strain—a priority. Our eyes weren’t designed to look at digital devices, let alone as much as we all do in this era. So, it’s key to be proactive about mitigating the effects of digital devices on our eyes.”

Children are also at risk for digital eye strain, and after two or more hours of screen time may suffer from reduced attention span, irritability, poor behavior, eye strain, dry or irritated eyes, headaches and neck and shoulder pain, The Vision Council found. But although more than 70 percent of American adults reported that their children are exposed to two or more hours of screen time per day, 25 percent of parents are “not concerned” about the impact of digital devices on their children’s developing eyes.

Along with the low awareness of digital eye strain among many Americans, there is also a lack of knowledge about the solutions for it. Nearly seven out of 10 American adults report they didn’t know glasses with lenses to combat digital eye strain existed—with 87 percent saying the same regarding contact lenses, The Vision Council said. Dr. Bazan debunks these misconceptions.

“Digital screens are a ubiquitous part of modern life, and it’s up to each of us to be proactive and make good choices to protect our eyes and our overall health,” explained Dr. Bazan. “That starts with seeing an eyecare provider to discuss digital eye strain solutions available—which include both eyewear and contact lenses specially crafted for digital device usage.”