What you see is what you get: What electronic devices do to your eyes

With our lives being run by technology, we find ourselves staring at screens for most of the day: our televisions, our cell phones, our MP3 players and our laptops.

Nicole Patterson, assistant professor of optometry, said that some who spend the entire day on the computer may develop computer vision syndrome.

“When you focus on something, your focusing ability, or accommodation, can sometimes be-come locked at that distance,” she said. “When you try to look away, you may not see clearly.”

Patterson said that computer vision syndrome can cause headaches and eye strain but no research has shown that it can cause permanent eye damage.

“When you’re working on the computer, sometimes you don’t blink as frequently, so you may experience dry eyes but nothing that’s going to permanently damage your vision,” she said.

Patterson said that she has seen a correlation between people who are on the computer for long hours and eye strain.

Katie Dabrowski, freshman psychology major, said she believes she wears glasses because of straining her eyes from reading and looking at her laptop.

“When I look down at small print and then I look up, it takes a while for my eyes to focus, but it’s pretty much the same thing when you’re on the computer, too,” she said.
But computers aren’t the only devices that affect eyes.

Jim Sheedy, director of the Vision Performance Institute at Pacific University, has conducted studies on the effects of 3-D movies on the eyes. People also get motion-related symptoms, like vertigo, after watching 3-D movies.

“People do get more symptoms with 3-D displays than with 2-D displays,” Sheedy said. “We have shown that when viewing 3-D compared to 2-D, the visual system does engage in more accommodative changes. Eye strain, dry eyes and complaints of blurred vision and double vision — those symptoms exist at the end of the movie and as they are leaving the movie.”

Miko Crecco, sophomore sports and recreational management major, said watching a 3-D movie gave him eye strain.

“It kind of hurt,” he said. “You’re used to seeing flat images and the 3-D throws your eyes off, and your brain almost hurts.”

Sheedy said that our eyes work best looking down at 10 to 15 degree angles. If a computer display is straight ahead of a person’s eyes, the person will eventually tilt his or her head back. If the display is too low, the person will pull his or her head forward, causing the head to become out of balance with the rest of the body.

“The top of your display should be about level with your eyes,” Sheedy said. “But the problem with a laptop is that if you put the display where it ought to be, it’s way too high for your hands. It can’t be right for your eyes and your hands at the same time.”

Sheedy recommends using a detachable keyboard when working for long hours on a laptop. He also recommends not having bright lights, like florescent lights, within peripheral vision while looking at a computer screen.

“Rotate your work station so the lights aren’t in your [line] of view, turn off the lights or wear a visor,” Sheedy said. “The best-lit environment is one where everything is fairly equal in brightness.”

However, Patterson said that reading or writing in the dark does not damage your eyes.

“You might make your eyes tired more quickly if you don’t have adequate lighting, and it might be harder to read, but you can certainly read in the dark,” she said.

Patterson suggests that people look up from their screen every 60 seconds and walk away from the computer every 15 to 30 minutes.

“Any break where you’re not looking at that same distance will help relax your eyes,” she said.

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