Help sports fans avoid digital eyestrain during tournament time

Help sports fans avoid digital eyestrain during tournament time

The 2016 NCAA men's basketball tournament kicks off this week. Millions of viewers will tune in between Tuesday's tip-off and the championship game on April 4—and a total of 67 games will be played. Last year's tournament generated a record 80.7 million live video streams on NCAA March Madness Live.

That means a lot of quality time between the TV screen and the eyes—and the possibility for experiencing symptoms of digital eyestrain.

During the tournament and year round, share the following tips with patients to avoid tired or red eyes, blurry vision or even headaches:

  • Give your eyes a timeout, literally. The AOA recommends the "20-20-20 rule" to avoid digital eyestrain: Take a 20-second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes. "There's a high-energy light that's emitted from these devices that can make your eyes more tired," says Amanda Nanasy, O.D., a member of AOA's Sports Vision Section (SVS) who practices in Pembroke Pines, Florida.
  • Keep your distance. "Don't sit too close to the screen or hold a device too close to your eyes," says Karl Citek, O.D., Ph.D., professor of optometry at the Pacific University College of Optometry in Forest Grove, Oregon. "Watching for too long, at too short a viewing distance, can cause digital eyestrain, resulting in possible symptoms such as headache, eye ache, double or blurred vision, tiredness and general discomfort."
  • Blink. Exposing your eyes to smoky or dry environments can cause dry eye. Staring at a screen without blinking, for extended periods of time, also can cause your eyes to dry out. Blinking helps keep the front surface of the eye healthy. "When watching any electronic device, such as a smartphone, tablet, e-reader, laptop, computer or even TV, viewers have a tendency to blink less often," Dr. Citek says. "And if you're watching the game in a bar or another location, sit (or stand) so that you can see the whole screen without having to constantly turn your head or strain."
  • About those screens. When's the last time you dusted off your screen or wiped away the fingerprints? Anything you can do, such as removing accumulated dust or fingerprints, can help keep your view unobstructed, says Fred Edmunds, O.D., SVS chair who practices in Victor, New York. "You don't want your eyes to have to work too hard," he says.
  • Consider adjusting light. Light sources can cast glare on screens. "You don't want a stark contrast between your TV screen and other lights, especially as a background," Dr. Edmunds says. "Eliminate or reduce glare as much as possible."
  • Remember it's a contacts sport. "For optimal vision, remember to keep your contacts well lubricated with artificial tears so they don't dry out and get blurry after all the staring at the screen," Dr. Nanasy says.
  • Have fun—but not too much fun. Enjoy the event. But overconsumption of alcohol can lead to dehydration, blurry vision and red eyes. "If you're going to drink, do it in moderation, and be sure to add water to your liquid rotation," Dr. Edmunds says.

Visit the AOA Sports Vision Section online for more information on a wide variety of sports vision-related topics and additional resources.

March 14, 2016

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