Visual fatigue, or asthenopia, is one of the most frequent reasons for visits in our daily practice. It is caused by the overexertion of our visual system, and is more frequent when we spend long periods of time focusing on objects that are close, or accommodating (this is what we call accommodative asthenopia).To clarify, we can think of our eyes as “resting” when they are looking at something in the distance (as long as we have the correct prescription) and are “working” harder the closer the objects that we are looking at are.
Some of the most common symptoms may include itchy eyes, redness, discomfort, and even eye pain and headaches.
First, the ever-increasing use of screens for reading (mobile, tablet and computer) does nothing more than aggravate these problems, especially if the devices are used with excessive illumination. When we blink less, our tears evaporate quicker.
Furthermore, if we are affected by a refractive error that goes untreated (ametropia) or our accommodative capacity is insufficient, this visual fatigue will be even more pronounced. Many of us spend an average of eight hours per day in front of a screen, and if we add in the amount of time looking at our mobiles, it is normal that we would suffer from symptoms of visual fatigue.
For this reason, specialists agree that, first, we must use the proper corrective lenses, and second, we should take a few minutes to look into the distance every two or three hours.
Ocular dryness is also one of the most common side effects when continually straining our vision from looking at a screen, since we blink less frequently. Using artificial tears and decreasing the brightness of the screen may help symptoms.
How do new technologies affect children?
According to recent studies, there is increasing evidence that, in addition to genetic factors, myopia is related to environmental factors, such as excessive work with objects that are near. It has been proven that outdoor activities decrease the probability of myopia developing or worsening.
Consequently, it is important to try to limit excessive hours of near vision (especially in myopic children), to study with an adequate distance from the work and with good light, and if possible, to relax the vision while staring into space.
It is advisable to do annual eye examinations with an ophthalmologist for children starting at the age of three, or even earlier if you suspect that the child has a visual anomaly or if there is a family history of ocular disease. Furthermore, it is crucial to rule out any potential lazy eye, as it can only be treated at an early age.
With regard to protective filters on electronic devices, these products are a myth. Their benefits have never been scientifically proven, and there are many misgivings about the possibility of private economic interests in the matter. The Sociedad Española de Oftalmología (Spanish Society of Ophthalmology, SEO by its Spanish initials) released an official statement on 20 July 2017 that said, “After painstaking analysis of scientific literature regarding this issue, the present scientific evidence does not demonstrate that blue light harms the eye, nor does it demonstrate benefits from blue-light filters in the prevention of ocular damage by said light radiation. There have been no studies conducted on humans, which would be necessary before being able to release a definitive recommendation about damage from blue light emitted by viewing screens. (…)”. For this reason, although the need to carry out said research seems reasonable in order to establish population-wide health measures, currently, we cannot recommend the use of screens with blue-light protection, such as Reticare, to avoid damage by these devices that has been unproven in real-world conditions and in humans.
Dra. Paz Orts Vila.
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