BCLA - Digital eye strain

Last month I attended the British Contact Lens Association (BCLA) Asia conference which was held in Hong Kong (in conjunction with the Hong Kong Cornea and Contact Lens Society).  It was an excellent meeting with over 200 delegates from all over the world in attendance and various topics were covered including myopia control, orthokeratology, scleral lenses, dry eye and paediatric contact lens fitting.  One of the best and most interesting seminars at the conference was a presentation given by Peter Kollbaum from the USA on the topic of ‘digital eye strain’.  According to Peter, previous reports have indicated that “eye strain” or “eye fatigue” occurs in over 60% of both the student and working populations using digital devices, and these symptoms have been shown to cause a significant decrease in quality of life.


This problem of digital eye strain is not surprising given that digital devices now occupy such a large part of our daily life (both for adults and children).  Many symptoms are associated with using digital devices and these include eye strain, difficulty in focusing from distance to near, dry eyes, headaches, tired eyes, double vision and itchy eyes.  Interestingly, studies have shown that women are more likely to report symptoms of digital eye strain compared with men and women are also more likely than men to use two or more screens at the same time.


Strategies for reducing or eliminating digital eye strain include establishing a better ergonomic working environment (especially with respect to lighting and also head and neck posture), using eye drops or prescribing contact lenses that will help to eliminate the dry eye symptoms, prescribing progressive near glasses to help support the eyes’ natural focusing (accommodative) system and the use of blue-blocking filters or coatings on glasses to reduce the amount of blue light which reaches the eye.  This last point is very important as many digital devices have been shown to emit high levels of short-wavelength blue light which can cause a reduction in melatonin production and therefore lead to general fatigue (and associated eye problems). 


I know in the practice we have been using a lot of the blue-control coatings for patients - whether digital devices are heavily used or not - as harmful blue light and eye fatigue is a problem for everyone.