Overexposure to digital devices causes vision problems, doctor warns

By Espie Angelica A. de Leon

According to opthalmologist Dr. Alexander L. Gonzales II of the Ospital ng Makati, prolonged exposure to digital devices such as computers, tablets, smartphones, and TVs negatively affects health because it may lead to serious eye damage and other vision problems.

Dr. Alexander L. Gonzales II of the Ospital ng Makati

Blue light emitted by these digital devices further wreak havoc on the body by disrupting the circadian rhythm or the natural wake-sleep cycle, thus making it difficult for a person to fall asleep. Blue light is part of the visible light spectrum. It has a short wavelength and is therefore high energy.

Gonzales spoke about “Child’s Eye Health in the Digital Age” during the Department of Information and Communications Technology’s National Digital Parenting Conference held at Novotel Manila in Quezon City on August 25.

According to Gonzales, prolonged use of digital gadgets may cause myopia or nearsightedness, computer vision syndrome (CVS), and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in both children and adults.

A person with myopia can see nearby objects clearly while those farther away appear blurred. This is because his eye cannot bend light properly and therefore light is focused in front of his retina.

Symptoms of myopia are eye strain, headaches, squinting, and difficulty in seeing far objects. It is common among 8 to 12-year-olds and worsens as a child reaches his teenage years.

Studies indicate that 29% of Filipino children suffer from myopia as against 5% of American kids. Meanwhile, 90% of frequent gamers have myopia.

CVS refers to eye discomfort after two or more hours of continued exposure to a digital device. CVS symptoms are caused by poor lighting, glare from screens of digital gadgets, incorrect viewing distance, and uncorrected vision problems. Even blue light has been named as a possible cause though Gonzales emphasized that this has not been proven.

“For some people, it could be a good idea to lessen screen time at least one or two hours before bedtime or to filter out blue light before bedtime,” he said.

In AMD, the macula is damaged, central vision is affected but peripheral vision is normal. Because central vision is affected, a black spot appears in the middle of his range of sight.

Aside from doing away with digital devices two hours before bedtime, Gonzales suggested additional measures to prevent the onset of vision problems:

• Make sure that ambient lighting is about half as bright
• Position the computer monitor on the side of windows
• Wear lenses with anti-reflective and amber yellow coating
• Use anti-glare screen
• Use LED and LCD screens
• Adjust the brightness of the screen to make it similar to the brightness of the surroundings
• Blink more often while exposed to digital devices
• Gaze at a far distance for 20 seconds every 20 minutes
• Stand up and stretch frequently
• Make sure that the monitor is positioned 20-24 inches from the eyes and the center of the screen is 10-
15 degrees below the eyes
• Choose a large flat panel display with the highest resolution, and others.

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