5 Things Pharmacists Can Recommend to Prevent Digital Eye Strain

JUNE 23, 2017

Digital eye strain (also known as computer vision syndrome) and blue light is not something I imagine is covered in many colleges of pharmacy across the country. It is the physical discomfort that is felt after spending more than 2 hours in front of a digital device screen. In addition to eye strain, symptoms of computer vision syndrome can include: headaches, blurred vision, dry eye, neck and shoulder pain.

Although the use of any digital device can cause digital eye strain, according to The Vision Council, devices that are most commonly used are: desktop computers, laptop computers, televisions, smartphones, tablets, and video games. In the age of technology, digital eye strain is something that all pharmacists should know about; not only to help patients protect their vision, but to help protect and preserve their own vision.

 

According to the American Optometric Association, in 2015, 58% of adults had experienced digital eye strain or vision problems as a direct result of spending significant time on a computer for work. In fact, the average US worker is estimated to spend 7 hours per day on the computer working from their home or office. When looking at digital device use that is a combination of use related to work or recreation, greater than 9 in 10 adults use a digital device more than 2 hours per day and greater than 6 in 10 adults spend more than 5 hours on digital device per day. “High users” of digital devices make up almost 30% of adults, who spend more than 9 hours each day on digital devices. The use of digital devices and the short and long-term implications on vision should also be monitored for children. It is reported that 25% of children use digital devices more than 3 hours per day.

Although any age group and demographic can experience digital eye strain, among those at highest risk for digital eye strain are women and young adults in their 20s and 30s. Young adults and those of the millennial generation check their digital devices more than any other age group. They also multitask, check their devices in the hour before going to sleep (90%) and use multiple digital devices at once (87%). Almost three-quarters of this group report symptoms of digital eye strain, which is significantly higher than the national average. Adults in their 30s also have a high risk of digital eye strain (93%) as many use their computers and laptops throughout the workday.
 

Pharmacists are often among these individuals who spend many hours on the computer verifying orders, utilizing drug information resources, and performing other patient care responsibilities. As one of the most accessible healthcare professionals, pharmacists should know the symptoms of digital eye strain and preventative measures that they can use themselves or share with patients. Pharmacists may also consider stocking and selling some of the products that are intended to alleviate digital eye strain in their pharmacies.

Here are 5 things that pharmacists can recommend to help patients prevent digital eye strain:


  1. Filters for digital devices and computer screens: Screen filters are available for computer screens, tablets, and smartphones. These filters decrease the amount of blue-light that can reach the eyes from digital devices. Blue light passes through the cornea and lens and can reach the retina. Too much blue light can potentially prematurely age the eye, cause digital eye strain and damage the retina over time. Blue light also helps to regulate the circadian rhythm and is emitted by sunlight. Exposure during the day and absence of blue light during the night helps promote a normal sleep wake cycle. Therefore, in addition to protecting the retina, blue light filters may be helpful in maintaining a normal sleep-wake cycle along with practicing good sleep hygiene. Blue light filters can either be purchased and attached to the device screen, or they can be downloaded from applications or turned on as a feature of certain devices.
  2. Responsible use of digital devices: These strategies include: eliminating screen glare by frequently dusting and wiping digital screens, making the text size larger on devices to improve definition of content on the screen, keeping handheld devices at a safe distance (just below eye level) and recommending the 20-20-20 Rule (when using a digital device, take a 20 second break every 20 minutes to look at something 20 feet away).
  3. Improvements to workstations: It can be recommended that patients attach a glare reduction filter to their computer screen, change the brightness of their device from bright white to cool gray, and decrease the overhead and surrounding light that is competing with the screen of their device. It is best to have the screen directly in front of their face and slightly below eye level, if possible. Computer monitors should not be tilted and they should be approximately one arm-length away (20-28 inches from the eyes).
  4. Computer eyewear or special lens technology: There are lenses and glasses that are intended to limit the amount of blue light and vision fatigue from the use of technology for prolonged amounts of time. Anti-reflective lenses that decrease reflection of overhead lighting and improve contrast and visual acuity can be considered. This technology can be combined with blue-light blocking technology by infusing the lense with melatonin or made to filter a specific blue light range.
  5. Regular visits to an eyecare provider: The Vision Council recommends that all adults and children discuss their digital device use habits with an eyecare provider and inquire about what eyewear solutions might be available to relieve digital eye strain. Pharmacists can suggest this as part of regular eye examinations that are recommended by the American Optometric Association (AOA). You can view the frequency of routine eye examinations from the AOA for adults and children here.
References

 

  1. American Optometric Association [Internet]. St. Louis (MO): American Optometric Association; c2017. Most Americans Experience Digital Eye Strain from Overexposure to Computers According to Survey; 2016 Oct 23 [cited 2017 May 15]; [about 1 screen]. Available at:

  2. The Vision Council. Hindsight is 20/20/20: Protect Your Eyes from Digital Devices. 2015 Digital Eye Strain Report. [Internet]. Alexadndria (VA): The Vision Council; 2015.[cited 2017 May 15]. Available from:

  3. The Vision Council. What is Digital Eye Strain? [Internet]. Alexadndria (VA): The Vision Council; 2015.[cited 2017 May 15]. Available at:

  4. Akinbinu TR, Mashalla YJ. Impact of computer technology on health: computer vision syndrome (CVS). Med Pract Rev. [Internet]. 2014 Nov [cited 2017 May 15]5(3): 20-30. Available at:

  5. Optician [Internet]. London: Optician Magazine. Optegra highlights professions most at risk of poor eye health; 2016 Feb 25 [cited 2017 May 15]; [about 1 screen]. Available at:

  6. American Optometric Association. [Internet]. Alexandria (VA): 2017. Computer Vision Syndrome; [cited 2017 May 15]; [about 1 screen]. Available at:

  7. Seiko Vision [Internet]. Lewisville (TX): Seiko Vision; 2017. Identifying Which of Your Patients Are Most at Risk for Digital Eye Strain, Part 1; 2017 Jan 18 [cited 2017 May 15]; [about 1 screen]. Available at:

  8. Prevent Blindness. (2016). Blue Light and Your Eyes. [Fact Sheet]. Accessed at:

  9. All About Vision.com. [Internet]. San Diego (CA): All About Vision Media, LLC; 2017. Computer Eye Strain: 10 Steps for Relief; 2015 Apr 25. [cited 2017 May 15]; [about 1 screen]. Available at:

  10. Make Use Of.Com. [Internet]. Make Use Of.Com; 2017. Get a Good Night’s Sleep by Filtering Your Phone’s Blue Light. 2015 Oct 5. [cited 2017 May 15]; [about 1 screen]. Available at:




Erin Thompson, PharmD, BCPS, BCACP
Dr. Thompson earned her BSPS and PharmD degrees from the University of Toledo and completed an PGY1 pharmacy residency at the University of Toledo Medical Center. She also holds a BSEd degree from Bowling Green State University and is a licensed Integrated Science Teacher in the State of Ohio for grades 7-12. Dr. Thompson is a licensed pharmacist in the states of Ohio and Michigan, and she has experience in both the community and inpatient pharmacy settings. In addition to her role as Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice at the University of Findlay College of Pharmacy, she practices part-time as a clinical pharmacist at the Toledo Clinic, Inc, in Toledo, Ohio.
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