At a recent gathering of Dry Eye researchers and pharmaceutical executives in Boston to address the disease from different perspectives, one presenter began her session with a question: Will our eyes survive the 4th Industrial Revolution? Though clearly rhetorical, the premise was intended to be an ominous nudge to everyone in the room: we have no idea where extended screen time will lead. Yet.
If your eyes feel like they're losing their mojo lately, it's probably due to your unending use of screens. No surprise there. Mobile phone addiction is so severe, 20% of adults start “using” within five minutes of waking up. But it's the rate of our perpetual screen-staring that has eye health experts sounding the alarm. "Some of us are using these things for up to nine hours a day. Your eye muscles have to focus at that near range and that can be fatiguing," says Dr. Christopher Starr, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at Weill Cornell Medical College and NYC Ophthalmologist.
Are you trading selfies, Snapchats and shopping for eye wellness? Women spend on average 33 minutes more a day than men on smartphones
Ah but it’s not just our phones. With 93 percent of Americans spending two hours or more per day in front of some sort of screen (TV, laptop, notebook, e-reader), soon we may be longing for a cotton gin!
This multi-generational problem — some say global epidemic — led some public health experts to warn it could 'rob millions of their sight decades early.' Well that's scary. Meanwhile, the nexus to dry eye is undeniable: 68 percent of adults exhibiting dry eye symptoms admit to screen usage of 6 hours a day or more.
Tech giants like Apple and Google have finally weighed in— albeit a bit late — with newly announced features designed to manage your screen time. Consumer brands like Reticare and Privé Revaux are cashing in on the eye-saving trend with blue-light blocking screen guards and glasses. It's all a good start; any proactive measure certainly bodes well if our eyes are to survive our self-imposed, multi-screened, digital dominion. The public is hungry for more research on the long-term health ramifications of our digital addiction (which transcend eye health, but that's a separate show).
These stylish Privé Revaux glasses feature blue light blocking technology claiming to cut out the blue light rays from your device screen and prevent them from reaching your eyes
Dry Eye Diva supports campaigns like #ThinkBlink to highlight the importance of blinking during screen time to help keep your precious peepers moist and strong
Bottom line: The best defense is limiting your screen time. But if you must be glued, SCREEN RESPONSIBLY by incorporating blink breaks, screen-managing apps and blue-light blocking accessories as part of a healthy screen routine.
WATCH NYC OPHTHALMOLOGIST CHRISTOPHER STARR ON CBS NEWS THIS MORNING
Sources: The Vision Council, OfCom, TFOS, Edelman Intelligence