Americans know that staring at a computer screen for the better part of a day is a recipe for trouble, yet just how problematic that can be on their eyesight isn't as universally understood.
Although 88% of Americans say light emitted from digital devices can negatively affect vision, another 40% don't think digital devices harm vision at all and more than a third were unaware of links to dry eye, according to the 2016 American Eye-Q® survey. All told, the responses indicate that not everyone understands the effects of prolonged digital device use on eye health.
That's why AOA is devoting the month of March to blue light and digital eye strain awareness, in addition to reinforcing the importance of regular, comprehensive eye examinations from doctors of optometry. Known as Save Your Vision Month, the national health observance is a long-running, annual optometry awareness campaign that the AOA has called its own for nine decades.
Given that the average American spends more than seven hours daily staring at a digital device—Millennials spend up to nine—Save Your Vision Month will address overexposure to blue light, high-energy visible light that can lead to eye strain and sleep problems, among other concerns.
"This year, we're challenging the public to prioritize not only their eye health, but also their overall health and well-being, and limit exposure to blue light," says Andrea P. Thau, O.D., AOA president.
5 tips for alleviating digital eye strain
The AOA understands that digital devices are an important part of everyday life and encourages patients to learn about blue light and its impact on vision and health. Below are five takeaways from the Save Your Vision Month campaign:
- Power down before turning in. As hard as it may be, turn devices off at least one hour before bedtime as part of your evening routine. High-energy visible light can potentially upset normal circadian rhythms that lead to a good night's sleep by suppressing melatonin levels at the wrong time of day.
- Mind the 20-20-20 rule. As a general rule of thumb, when working with digital devices for a prolonged period of time, it's appropriate to take a 20-20-20 break. In other words, take a 20-second break every 20 minutes to focus on something 20 feet away. These regular breaks can help alleviate digital eye strain.
- Keep your distance. In addition to following the 20-20-20 rule, it's also appropriate to maintain a comfortable working distance from your digital device. Find a comfortable distance from your screen where text is easily readable, while your back, shoulders and head can maintain an upright posture. Generally, the preferred viewing distance is between 20 and 28 inches from eyes to screen.
- Make adjustments. Found a comfortable position? Next, consider adjusting screen height or text size so you don't find yourself hunching forward. Keep computer screens about 4 to 5 inches below eye level from the screen's center. The AOA recommends reducing the glare by adjusting device settings or using a glare filter to decrease the amount of blue light reflected from the screen.
- Keep those eyes healthy. Schedule regular comprehensive eye examinations with your doctor of optometry to detect and address vision problems.
In a virtual kick-off, the AOA launches Leadership Institute with 130 doctors of optometry from across the country. A project of the AOA Leadership Development Committee, the Institute is a yearlong program designed to grow and support the next generation of leaders in the profession.
At the 2021 Leaders Summit, AOA-member volunteers set priorities for the year and launched new initiatives to lead the profession forward.