Everyone spends too much time staring at their personal screens these days, particularly when forced to stay home for days or weeks on end.
After a long session, most people at some time experience an aching neck and tired eyes.
This is because smartphones and computer screens make the eyes work extra hard and sometimes result in a condition called digital eye strain.
Dr Ching Wing Seng, an ophthalmologist from Tun Hussein Onn National Eye Hospital, tells MalaysiaNow that compared to other more traditional reading or writing media, viewing a digital screen requires more effort from the eyes and after too long can cause blurred vision and dry, irritated eyes.
Ching says the biggest difference between viewing a digital screen and a printed page is in the contrast.
“Black and white writing on paper is 100% contrast. Writing on screen may not be as full of contrast,” he says. ”Letters on screen often lack sharpness, which makes viewing them difficult.”
He adds that different viewing distances and angles can result in additional demands on the visual system which often exhausts the eyes.
The biggest difference between viewing a digital screen and a printed page is in the contrast.
Both short-sighted and long-sighted people are often victims of digital eye strain, he says. “If refractive errors are not corrected by using glasses of the right power, you will definitely suffer from digital eye strain.”
He insists, “You must have the correct lighting and look at the screen at the right angle too.”
The muscles can suffer from prolonged screen time, too.
“Looking at phones head down is a bad posture as it puts a substantial amount of weight and pressure on the neck,” he says. “This should be avoided as it results in a condition called forward head posture.”
Ching cautions people not to sit too near the screen. Bending towards the screen can result in muscle spasms and neck, shoulder or back pain.
”The best sitting position when looking at a computer screen is an upright posture with the feet resting on the floor, and wrists hovering just above and not resting on the keyboard when typing,” he says.
“Ideally, the computer screen should be 15 to 20 degrees below eye level as most people find it more comfortable to view a computer screen when the eyes are looking downward.”
“If you look at the screen for about 45 minutes non-stop, you should take a break before you start your next session.”
And when the eyes are getting tired, it helps to blink more often, take rest breaks away from the computer, and use eye care lubricants.
He recommends lubricating eye drops and oral supplements such as lutein and omega-3 to relieve tired eyes.
“If you look at the screen for about 45 minutes non-stop, you should take a break before you start your next session,” he says.
Prashanti Amirtharatnam, an optometrist at OasisEye Specialists, a consortium of ophthalmologists, tells MalaysiaNow that the negative effects of screens are particularly damaging to children as their eyes are still growing and developing.
She says, “With many kids spending too much time at their screens and not enough time outdoors nowadays, they are likely to develop short-sightedness or myopia – where distant objects appear blurry.”
Prashanti cites a study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology which shows a significantly slower progression towards short-sightedness among children who spent more time in outdoor activities, well away from their digital screens.