The Impact of Screens on Visual Health

More and more research is taking place to study the impact of screens on visual health, given the increase in the use of electronic devices. Sight is a sense that's very exposed to the effects of screens. We'll tell you more in the following article.
The Impact of Screens on Visual Health
Leonardo Biolatto

Written and verified by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Last update: 27 May, 2022

In the world of medicine, precisely ophthalmology, more and more studies are appearing regarding the impact of screens on visual health. Consults regarding eye conditions resulting from the use of electronic devices have greatly increased.

Therefore, the concept of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) came into existence. This condition appears when the exposure to screens is greater than 3 hours per day or screen brightness is above the recommended level. It also occurs when the distance between a person’s eyes and the screen is to short.

As we well know, modern life means constant use of a variety of screens. We use televisions, tablets, cell phones, computers. In fact, we’ve even installed screens in household devices. Our eyes spend their days struggling to focus the way that they must to interpret these devices.

Often, we spend the great majority of our ocular effort on looking at our cell phones. Since we hold them at a short distance from our heads, we force the binocular vision of our eyes.

When we stare fixedly at a screen for a prolonged period of time, our eyelids move 30% less than they normally do. This reduces the amount of moisture from tears, meaning our eyeballs are less hydrated.

If you have any doubts about the impact of screens on visual health, then keep reading. We’ll tell you the symptoms as well as the recommendations you can put into practice. With simple measures, you can combat the problem .

The impact of screens on visual health: The symptoms

When we understand the impact of screens on visual health, then we realize the logic behind the symptoms. It’s about looking for the signs of ocular fatigue that result from an excessive effort.

Among the most common symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome we can name the following:

  • Blurry or double vision: This is known as diplopia in medical terms.
  • A sandy sensation in the eyeball: This leads to the intense rubbing of the eye.
  • Red eyes: This results from irritation and inflammation of the eye, as well as the constant rubbing.
  • Pain behind the eyes.
  • Headache: Visual fatigue can lead to headaches. Headaches can also come from cell phones and the positioning of our heads when we use thems.
A woman using a laptop and rubbing her eyes.
Prolonged exposure to the screens of electronic devices like smartphones is linked to problems with visual health.

Keep reading: 7 Easy Eye Exercises For Visual Fatigue and to Avoid Headaches

What’s the impact of screens on visual health?

A series of mechanisms come into play unconsciously to use screens. Our bodies modify the forms and ways in which they carry out their habitual functions to adapt to electronic devices.

One of the basic issues that the impact of screens on visual health entails has to do with our ability to focus. Our eyes, at rest, easily focus on objects that are a long distance away. However, when they must focus on something that’s nearby, they set off compensation mechanisms that demand effort. These accommodative tasks lead to fatigue.

What’s more, the concentration that screens demand is nothing to balk at. Our eyes tend to remain open for longer periods and we blink must less frequently. On average, we blink 15 to 20 times per minute. However, the mere act of using a screen can bring that number down to 3 times a minute.

Last, and this is something we’ll spend more time on, screens emit a considerable amount of blue light. This blue light is a fragment of the light spectrum that can penetrate through to the retina. It reaches the macule and deteriorates it over time.

Blue light and visual health

The blue light that electronic devices emit is both beneficial and harmful at the same time. Thanks to this blue light, these devices can consume less energy. However, research has shown that this same light is dangerous for the health of our retinas.

The sun also emits blue light. Therefore, our eyes have known this type of light since the day we were born. The problem with the blue light that comes from screens is that it comes from a source that’s much closer to our eyes. And that’s just where the damage comes from.

Physically speaking, blue light is a short-wave and high-energy light. Given these characteristics, our eyes need to make a greater effort in order to focus.

A woman texting in the dark.
The light that the screens of mobile devices emit is dangerous to the health of our retinas.

Discover more: 6 Tips to Keep Your Eyes Healthy

Recommendations for reducing the impact of screens on visual health

There are several basic measures that we can apply daily to reduce the impact of screens on visual health:

  • Rest your eyes: For work that requires looking at a computer screen, take time to relax your vision. Practice looking away from your screen every 20 minutes for 20 seconds and focus on an object 20 feet away.
  • Establish a healthy distance from electronic devices: Screens should remain at least 24 inches away from our eyes. For larger screens, like televisions, the distance should be at least 6 feet.
  • Blink: We already know that we blink much less often when using screens. Therefore, we need to make a conscious effort and force ourselves to blink when spending time on electronic devices. This blinking produces tears that moisten the eyeball.
  • Make sure you have good lighting: Using electronic devices in environments with low lighting is counterproductive. Our eyes have to make a greater effort and the effect of the screen’s light on the retina increases.

The answer isn’t to give up screens altogether. Today, in the world we live in, that would be impossible. However, what we should do is apply these recommendations in order to reduce the harmful impact of screens on our visual health .

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Díaz, Alejandro Arias, Neisy Bernal Reyes, and Luis Eduardo Camacho
  • Rangel. “Efectos de los dispositivos electrónicos sobre el sistema visual.” Revista Mexicana de Oftalmología 91.2 (2017): 103-106.
  • Prado Montes, Ana, et al. “Síndrome de Fatiga ocular y su relación con el medio laboral.” Medicina y Seguridad del Trabajo 63.249 (2017): 345-361.
  • CATTIAUX, L. (2019). LA LUZ. In El mensaje reencontrado.
  • Ministerio de Trabajo, E. y S. S. (2011). La iluminacion en el ambiente laboral. Superintendencia de Riegos Del Trabajo.
  • Generalitat Valenciana. (2012). Fatiga Visual. Servicio de Prevencion de Riesgos Laborales.
  • Síndrome de Fatiga ocular y su relación con el medio laboral. (2017). Medicina y Seguridad Del Trabajo.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.