Features, South Africa

Keep a Healthy Eye on the Job

To commemorate Workplace Eye Wellness Awareness Month, Mellins i-Style shares insights into better eye health and digital habits.

Mellins i-Style - EHN

To commemorate Workplace Eye Wellness Awareness Month, Mellins i-Style, a leading group of optometrists, shares insights into better eye health and digital habits, and how to avoid serious eye and vision problems.

Electronics form an integral part of today’s world, in the workplace and socially. With the continuous growth in the digital market, it also means more time is spent looking at electronic screens. For adults with computer-oriented jobs, digital eye strain can lead to dry, irritated eyes, neck pain and headaches as well as difficulties with focusing and a subsequent decrease in productivity. However, not everybody is aware of the dangers of high energy visible (HEV) or blue light, emitted by digital screens, that can cause retinal damage, vision loss and even sleeping problems.

Our modern lifestyle creates visual stress

It’s estimated that we look at our smartphones, computer screens, tablets, GPS devices and TV screens for between six and nine hours per day, and at our cellular phones as many as 80 times per day. This is impacting our vision and challenging our eyes and health significantly. Digital eyestrain or Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is a result of our modern lifestyle and the prolonged use of digital devices.

According to a Senior Optometrist and Mellins i-Style’s Managing Director, Andre Horn, who deals with these complaints and concerns of patients on a daily basis, our eyes are under immense pressure as they constantly have to shift between viewing something at a distance and nearby, small displays and text. When looking at different digital devices or reading a book, we are constantly changing the reading distance which is very stressful for our eyes.

“The ciliary muscle and natural lens in the interior of the eye are put under extreme strain as they have to adjust constantly in order to refocus clearly. As we get older, the lenses and muscles in our eyes gradually lose their elasticity, reducing the eyes’ ability to automatically focus clearly at different distances. More people therefore need vision correction with the help of spectacles or contact lenses,” said Horn.

The danger of HEV

Another important factor is that electronics and digital devices emit HEV or blue light that has a very short wavelength and therefore produces a higher amount of energy.

The light that reaches and enters the human eye is divided into visible light, comprising wavelengths from about 380 to 780 nm, and the non-visible spectrum, which includes light in the ultraviolet range (UV light) and the infrared range (IR light). The component of light in the violet-blue band between 380 and 500 nm is known as high-energy visible HEV.

HEV - EHN

Diagram courtesy: Zeiss

 

These wavelengths flicker more easily and create glare which may be one of the reasons for eye strain when sitting in front of a digital screen for too long. Our eyes’ natural filters don’t provide sufficient protection against blue light which reaches all the way to the light-sensitive cells of the retina (the inner lining of the back of the eye) that may cause changes leading to age-related macular degeneration and ultimately loss of vision.

A Harvard medical study states that “HEV blue light has been identified for years as the most dangerous light for the retina. After chronic exposure, one can expect to see long range growth in the number of macular degenerations, glaucomas and retinal degenerative diseases.”

Recent studies have also found that blue light emitted from digital devices also reduces the body’s melatonin levels that are needed to fall asleep naturally, causing people to stay awake for longer as they find it difficult to fall asleep.

Protecting yourself from HEV

You can minimise the negative effect of blue light and glare on your eyes and natural sleep pattern by simply changing the iOS settings of devices to ‘nightshift’ or by downloading free apps such as Bluelight Filter for Eye Care, Twilight, EyePro-Blue-Light Filter, Blue Light Filter-Night Mode and f.lux.

If you have an unresolved eye condition (like astigmatism or farsightedness), it might aggravate the feeling of glare from a computer screen. Regular eye examinations are therefore important to identify potential problems.

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