According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 20,000 Americans injure their eyes in their place of work. Of these 20,000, one third of the injuries are serious enough to merit a visit to the hospital emergency room. What may be more surprising is that 14 percent of reported eye problems are related to computer work. It doesn’t take a construction site accident or chemical burn to damage your vision; it can happen in the comfort of your soft leather office chair.
March is Workplace Eye Wellness Month, a perfect time to do some self-evaluation on how we are valuing and caring for our vision. As our jobs and daily tasks increasingly rely on computers and electronic devices, it is important for us to understand how prolonged screen time affects our vision.
Our eyes can see a limited amount of light wavelengths on the electromagnetic spectrum. The wavelengths of visible light are between about 390 nanometers (nm) to 700 nm. Laptop computers, tablets, smartphones, LEDs and CFLs all emit blue light, which has wavelengths of 380 nm to 500 nm. These short, high-energy light waves create a glaring effect on the eyes that can lead to symptoms like dry eye, blurred vision, headaches, nearsightedness, and eye fatigue. Some doctors believe that overexposure to blue light has the potential to cause retinal damage and increase the risk for macular degeneration.
Now that we know the facts about blue light, what can we do about the fact that most Americans use electronics in the workplace and at home? Here are some simple reminders that you can jot down on a post-it note and adhere to your computer screen:
- Install a blue-light filter app on your smartphone and tablet.
- Talk to your ophthalmologist about getting some glasses for the office with anti-reflective (AR) lenses.
- Keep the computer roughly 30 inches away from your eyes.
- During your workday, remember the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
- Blink frequently. This simple action reduces dry eye and maintains eye health.
- Visit your eye doctor regularly. Nothing can substitute for a comprehensive eye exam to evaluate your eye health.