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Myth or Fact: Looking at a Computer Can Hurt Your Eyes

Posted Date: 3/22/2014
In the digital age, our eyes are constantly focused on computers, smartphones and tablets. All of that staring contributes to an increased tendency towards myopia (nearsightedness). "There are studies which have shown that kids who spend more time playing outside are less prone to myopia than kids who are inside reading or on computers," says Dr. Norman Saffra, Director of Ophthalmology. "There are a whole host of symptoms that some people develop from excessive computer use and the decrease in blink frequency associated with it, from dry eyes to headaches." Underlying eye muscle disorders can also be aggravated.

So what can we do? Since computers are viewed from an intermediate distance, proper ergonomics is important. Dr. Saffra recommends keeping the computer screen far away, with your feet on the floor and the screen 5-10 degrees downward. He also suggests taking a three minute break every hour by looking off into the distance to relax your eyes. Artificial tears (over-the-counter eye drops) are also advised. Dr. Saffra notes, "You may develop dry eye from staring at a screen. It also forces you to take a break for that minute." Spectacles are also necessary for some symptomatic individuals to help alleviate the stress. "Most people over age 40 already have reading glasses, but progressive lenses have multiple focusing areas, so it works well for both reading and intermediate distances," Dr. Saffra explains. Computer glasses are also commercially available to decrease eye fatigue.

THE VERDICT: TRUE – People who irritate their eyes by staring at devices for long periods of time may develop symptoms, though, according to Dr. Saffra, there is no proof that computer use or reading will cause irreversible long-term damage to your vision. It may, however, accelerate the need for glasses.

Dr. Norman Saffra
Director, Division of Ophthalmology

Dr. Norman Saffra is one of the nation’s leading ophthalmic laser and microsurgeons. He is known for his expertise in diseases of the retina and vitreous, diabetic eye disease and macular degeneration. He has been listed in the “Castle Connolly Guide: How to find the Best Doctors (New York metro area)” and in New York Magazine’s “Best Doctors” issue for the past several years.

To make an appointment, call (718) 283-8000.
For more information, click here.

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