The Effect of Texting on Your Eyes

Photo: ALAMY

Photo: ALAMY

At Eye Care Specialists, we wholeheartedly acknowledge that all the apps, emails, viral videos, and text messages have driven us to distraction, if not off the road. Today, the average cell phone user sends about 500 or so text messages a month. If texters are spending this much time looking at a tiny cell phone screen, one has to ask the question, “Are my eyes slowly suffering?”

“Near work” is a phrase used to describe any work that requires the eyes to focus on an object placed near them. As such, any activity involving near work is thought to contribute to myopia, otherwise known as nearsightedness. Texting would fall under this category, and would be a contributing factor in the development of young people’s eyes. The term “screen sightedness” was recently coined to describe this phenomena, with research showing that there has been a 35% increase in the number of people with advancing myopia since smartphones launched in 1997.

But aside from possibly affecting your vision for the worse, how else does texting affect your eyes? The Norwood laser specialists are here to provide you with ways on how texting excessively strains your eyes and how to relieve them.

Eye Strain and Dry Eye

One of the most common drawbacks of starring at the small screen of a cell phone is eye strain. The eye struggles to read the pixels on screen, while also squinting to read the small type. Also, staring at the cell phone’s bright screen, even for a short period of time, tires the eyes, which causes what has come to be known as “digital eye strain.”

“Dry eye” can also result from excessive texting, causing a stinging or burning sensation in the eye from lack of moisture. Staring closely at a screen for longer periods of time can even exacerbate the dryness, as a person’s blink rate (the number of times per minute that the eyelid automatically closes) slows when looking at an object close to their face. You don’t have the windshield wiper effect of the tears, resulting in less eye moisture, which keeps them sharp, glossy, and a generally more comfortable surface.

Texting, it seems, is a double-edge sword, at once keeping us connected with the world, but also resulting in visual problems such as eye strain, fatigue and even at its worst, chronic headaches. Well, since texting is not going away anytime soon, here are some ways to minimize the adverse effects.

Eye-Friendly Texting

The 20-20-20 rule.

Try and look up from your phone every 20 minutes for 20 seconds, and focus on something at least 20 feet away for a couple minutes. This will allow your eye muscles to relax and blink more often, thus refreshing them with moisture.

Hold your phone away from your face.

Research shows that the devices may not be to blame so much as how we hold them. The closer the object is that you are focusing on, the more your eyes have to work. People tend to hold smartphones considerably closer to their faces than they would a book or newspaper, even as close as seven or eight inches. To counter this, try using the “Harmon Distance,” which is the distance between your elbow and the knuckle of your index finger.

Adjust the brightness and contrast of your screen.

Adjust your phone’s screen settings to a point where you aren’t straining to read text messages, approximately the same as the brightness of your surrounding room or workstation. As a test, look at the white background of this Web page. If it looks like a light source, it’s too bright. If it seems dull and gray, it may be too dark.

Display a larger text.

Most cell phones have a setting to magnify onscreen text for those struggling to read smaller text types. Making the text larger can relieve eye strain caused by squinting. Adjust the text size and contrast for comfort, especially when texting continuously for a long period. Usually, black print on a white background is the best combination for comfort.

Color temperature.

This is a technical term used to describe the spectrum of visible light emitted by a color display. Blue light is short-wavelength visible light that is associated with more eye strain than longer wavelength hues, such as orange and red. Reducing the color temperature of your display lowers the amount of blue light emitted by a color display for better long-term viewing comfort.

Get a comprehensive eye exam.

Having a routine comprehensive eye exam is the most important thing you can do to prevent or treat computer vision problems. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), computer users should have an eye exam before they start working on a computer and once a year thereafter.

If you would like to schedule an appointment with an eye care professional from our office, for an eye exam or to discuss the possibility of receiving LASIK treatment, call 781-769-8880.