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Vision Experts Warn of Dangers of Excessive Screen Time

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Monday, February 6, 2023   

Americans spend almost 13 hours a day using digital devices, and experts said it has the potential to strain your eyes and lead to serious health problems down the road.

Blue light comes from the sun but also from digital screens, and some medical professionals say too much of it can lead to scratchy or itchy eyes, tearing up, problems focusing, and headaches.

Dr. Scott Edmonds, chief eye care officer for UnitedHealthcare Vision, recommended the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look away from the screen at something 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds.

"It takes you away from the blue light, so your retina can recycle," Edmonds explained. "It also takes the strain off your convergence muscles, the muscles that turn your eyes in to keep them focused on the screen. When you look at 20 feet, your focus goes to rest, your converging muscles go to their resting point, and you get 20 seconds away from the blue light."

He also recommended adults, starting in their 20s, should get a baseline eye exam, so they can measure changes in the future. Ultraviolet light is damaging to the retina and over time and is thought to contribute to age-related macular degeneration.

Edmonds added experts are concerned blue light may be just as damaging.

"Blue, we always thought, was safe because it's visible," Edmonds acknowledged. "It may also be causative because it's so high energy and because these new sources admit such high levels of the blue light."

Dr. Raj Maturi, clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, advised frequent breaks from the screen and turning them off well before bedtime to improve sleep.

"We get tired, our brain is not trying to slow down, and we don't sleep well," Maturi pointed out. "An excess amount of blue light at night can also decrease the amount of melatonin that our body produces, and therefore affect how quickly and how easily we fall asleep."

Disclosure: UnitedHealthcare contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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