The myths and misconceptions of vision problems

The myths and misconceptions of vision problems

With the modern world geared so much around technology, it is impossible to get away from computer screens and monitors, as they have become as much a part of our lives as pen and paper, if not more so.

Indeed, many people spend the majority of their day in front of a screen, at work using a computer monitor and then when they get home in front of the TV or playing on games consoles, while smartphone usage has also boosted screen time for millions of people across the planet.

But how much of this exposure to digital screens is harming our vision and, if so, what can we do to prevent it?

According to ophthalmologist Dr Deo Singh, of the Caribbean Eye Institute, talking to the Trinidad Express recently, exposure to computer screens is not directly associated with vision damage.

He noted that staring at a monitor is unlikely to cause people long-term damage or lead to the development of disease, though he did note that tiredness is a major factor affecting those who spend a lot of time in front of screens.

"I don"t think there is a risk in terms of permanent damage, neither is the level of radiation [from these screens] high enough to do harm to the eye. Although you may get symptoms of eye strain because of poor lighting. I find it difficult to read things like email on a BlackBerry," the expert told the newspaper.

Dr Singh added that eye strain is likely to be higher among people who play computer games often, either on a PC or a home console.

This is because they are required to focus hard on the screen so as not to miss anything and therefore minimise the number of times they blink due to their increased concentration.

However, this can cause dryness around the corners of the eyes due to prolonged exposure to the air, which in turn leads to irritation, he noted.

As well as "burning" of the eyes, headaches and general discomfort are associated with this, which may be something for gamers to take on board if they are planning marathon sessions on the latest title.

The expert added: "If you spend a long time on it, the muscles used to focus on close things are not given a chance to relax or recover. The purpose of looking away from a computer screen now and then is for the muscles of accommodation get a chance to relax for a couple of seconds."

However, Dr Singh does not believe it is fair to attribute computer use to permanent eye problems. He explained that he has known people who have worked in IT for many years and never complained of vision trouble.

If critics are correct and children"s vision is generally deteriorating, however, he said it may not necessarily be a bad thing if they are short-sighted.

The expert told the Trinidad Express that there are plenty of vision correction solutions available for children with short-sightedness, ranging from contact lenses to glasses, while such a diagnosis could also have long-term benefits by encouraging productive activity.

He explained: "If a child is short-sighted, near vision is much better. Short-sighted children tend to develop interest in things that are close rather than further. They tend to read a lot."

With the modern world placing an ever-increasing focus on technology and devices utilising digital screens becoming more and more important by the day, there is no getting away from the fact that we will be spending more time in front of monitors.

However, it seems that this may not be having the detrimental effect on our vision that some people would have you believe.

by Martin Burns

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