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The Harm of Digital Devices

Children young and old cannot put their Christmas presents down, with their Kindles, iPads and smart phones. But doctors warn of other presents that might come with these devices, like headaches, eyestrain and other symptoms. Pat Hernandez explains.



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Eye doctors are bracing for new patients coming in, complaining of vision problems related to digital devices called computer vision syndrome.

“Computer vision syndrome really is a conglomeration of symptoms associated with visualizing computers or computer usage.”

Dr. Kimberley Lambreght is the associate director of the University Eye Institute, part of the college of optometry at the University of Houston. She says the digital age has brought a new wave of maladies.

“Eye strain can be part of those symptoms, along with headaches, blurry vision. Many patients experience dry eye syndrome, or dry eye symptoms, and also other type of ergonomic issues, like shoulder pain, neck pain. All of those things together constitute computer vision syndrome.”

Dr Lambreght says people spend about six hours a day working at a computer, then doing other computer-screen activities for pleasure. She says as a result, eyes are not moistened because they do not blink as often as they should, which is normally 20-times a minute.

“Patients will blink on average 10 times to 12 times per minute while using a computer or doing reading, or any other task really, that requires a lot of attention. So, it can be a real problem.”

Lambreght says the eye lid is specially made to take tears and spread them across the ocular surface to protect the cornea.

“Many patients with dry eye syndrome, just dryness of the cornea, will have reduced vision because you no longer have a nice optical surface, a clear optical surface. It’s like taking a camera lens and making it grainy, where its not clear, or you have finger prints on it. That’s what its like when you look through a cornea that gets dried out.”

Lambreght says eye problems became more prevalent after the invasion of digital devices:

“You had iPads and iPods and smart phones, also you had some of these games, computer games that kids are using. It wasn’t as big of an issue. As soon as this became the normal or the standard, we’re seeing more and more of it. And really, every single child that uses one of these little devices can actually have these kinds of symptoms.”

Lambreght says computer vision syndrome can be corrected by just putting down the digital device or moving away from the computer, unless it’s left untreated or undiagnosed.

“A patient will overlook telling you a symptom, because its just normal for them when they work on their computer or play a game, and it is not only annoying, but it can affect quality of life.”

Lambreght says don’t forget to blink, breathe and break. Other doctors call it the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20-minutes, take 20-seconds and look at something 20-feet away.