Shifting the Focus

Save-Your-Vision-MonthEvery year in March, the American Optometric Association (AOA) educates Americans on the importance of keeping our eyes healthy. When 55% of adults use computers, smartphones, tablets, and other devices for five or more hours each day, it’s only natural that our eyes will be affected. Protecting our vision should be of utmost importance, especially as technology continues to grow.

So, in recognition of Save Your Vision Month, let’s chat and chew about recommended eye-care tips to protect your vision.

“The 21st-Century Eye”

This infographic produced by the AOA highlights some of the results of the 2014 American Eye-Q® survey. Out of the 200 children (ages 10-17) surveyed, results showed that 83 percent use an electronic device for three or more hours each day. One of the more concerning, but not surprising, outcomes also indicated that 80 percent of children surveyed experienced burning, itchy, or tired eyes after using electronic devices for long periods of time.

Growing up, it wasn’t until college that I remember ever using a tablet or laptop in a classroom setting. I’ve always been a big fan of hand-written notes, but I understand that typing notes comes with its perks. However, the downside of this transition from composition notebooks to iPads is a critical part of why children are experiencing symptoms of digital eye strain at younger ages.

Each year when school starts we see an increase in kids complaining of symptoms synonymous with eye strain. Essentially, they’re going from being home over the summer with a minimal amount of time spent using their devices back to a classroom full of technology, and their time on devices often doubles, leading to a strain on the eyes.” – Lori Roberts, O.D., chair of the AOA’s New Technology Committee

Not only is reducing the amount of time spent using electronic devices essential to healthy eyes, getting yearly eye exams—especially before going back-to-school—are also highly encouraged.

Tips to Help Prevent Vision Problems

Envisioning healthier eyes is not a far-fetched dream; there are several ways you can help prevent or reduce eye problems linked to digital eye strain:

  • Use proper lighting. The excessive bright lights from sunlight or interior lights can cause added discomfort, so be sure to close blinds or use low-intensity bulbs in the home and workplace.
  • Blink. Blinking moistens your eyes, which helps prevent dryness and irritation. When you work on a computer for long stretches of time, you blink about one-third as much. Consider asking your doctor about artificial tears (lubricant eye drops) to help eliminate dry eyes.
  • The “20-20-20” rule. Every 20 minutes, look away from your screen and focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This exercise will reduce your eyes’ risk of “locking up” when focusing on a computer screen for lengthy amounts of time.
  • Reposition your device. Computer screens should be four to five inches below the eye level and anywhere from 20-28 inches away from the eyes. Any handheld device should be viewed at a safe distance and slightly below the eye.

There are many other ways you can help avoid eye strain and future vision problems, but the examples above should help get you started. Remember, eye exams are on the top of the list when it comes to protecting your vision. Keep your eye on the prize—take the necessary steps now to save your sight later.

Don’t forget: Compass Rose Health Plan members have access to discounts on exceptional eye care services such as eye exams, glasses, contacts, and LASIK. To learn more, visit

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