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Can too much screen time hurt your eyes?

Riddle Hospital February 20, 2014 General Wellness

woman laying on a couch while using a tabletToo much time on phones and tablets has been linked to plenty of health problems—carpal tunnel syndrome, “texting” thumb, neck and back pain, and now eye problems. Although it’s probably not a secret for anyone who has spent too much time texting or scrolling through the news on their tablet, you might be surprised to find out just how much damage you could be causing your eyes.

“Using a smartphone strains your eyes in the same way that using a computer does, but the main difference is the distance between your face and the object,” explains Aaron Cohn, MD, ophthalmologist at Riddle Hospital. “When you’re that close to something, you’re forcing your eyes to work harder to focus on the screen.”

In addition to being held closer to the face, these screens are often smaller than that of a computer, which means its users are peering more closely to distinguish images or text. So, aside from giving up your smartphone and tablet completely, is there any way to protect your eyes?

“The best advice I can give to someone who is frequently looking at small screens and using tablets or phones is to take a break,” says Dr. Cohn. “During the workday or when you’re on your phone frequently, try to take breaks every hour or so to look into the distance and allow your eyes to relax.”

Many devices will allow you to adjust text size, brightness and, sometimes, the background of what you’re looking at. Choose one that is the easiest for you to read on, but still remember to take breaks. If you’re looking at a tablet all day, talk to your doctor about your options for computer eye wear and prescription lenses or glasses that can protect the glare of harsh overhead lights.

If too much screen time is causing frequent headaches or eye strain, make an appointment with ophthalmologist to talk about whether or not glasses or contacts are right for you. To schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.