Like many people, you probably go through your e-mail and social media accounts even before you get out of bed. Then you head off to the office, where you’ll be working with a computer for the rest of the day.
In between, you check your mobile phone for messages, and also sneak in considerable time for Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
We live in a world that’s constantly hungry for anything new, a world where staying on top of things means checking our social media accounts every few minutes—a world where distancing ourselves from our gadgets even for just a day has become unthinkable.
It’s not that these gadgets are bad for our health; it’s the prolonged exposure to their blue light that’s causing digital eyestrain.
Blue light is a harmful shortwave light, since it is the highest energy wavelength of visible light. It’s everywhere; the sun itself emits blue light. That’s why the sky and oceans are blue.
But it can also be manmade, such as the light in our gadgets, TV, fluorescent and LED lights.
While the amount of blue light emitted by this manmade technology is only a fraction of what the sun emits, people spend more time with their gadgets now more than ever, so that means greater exposure to the blue light. The proximity of the screens to the eyes is a cause of concern for many eye doctors.
40 times a day
According to a report from Informate Mobile Intelligence, Americans check their gadgets at least 17 times a day, while in other parts of the world, such as Thailand, Malaysia, Qatar, Argentina, Mexico and South Africa, people check these networking apps a staggering 40 times a day.
“Prolonged exposure, such as whole-day use, can cause eye strain, dry eyes, headaches, dizziness, neck pain and blurring of vision,” said Dr. Aileen J. Azarcon, optometrist and technical manager at Owndays Phils. “Based on studies, blue light can damage the back part of the eye, which is the retina.”
The retina is a highly sensitive, thin layer of tissue at the back of the eye. Its purpose is to receive light that the lens has focused, convert light into neural signals, and send these signals to the brain for visual recognition.
The eye, said Azarcon, is like a camera. The lens inside the eye has an autofocus activity; it zooms in and out to see things clearly.
“If you look from afar, your eyes are relaxed; if you read or see objects closer to the eye it needs to zoom in to make it clearer. The constant zooming in and out will make your eyes blurry. Like flexing muscles, the eye is always contracted. This can elongate the eyeball and cause nearsightedness,” explained Azarcon.
The quickest way to ease eye strain is by blinking. Azarcon also said to follow the 20-20-20 rule: after spending 20 minutes working on the computer, look away at a distance of 20 feet for 20 seconds.
While all these are helpful to keep the eyes healthy, the negative effects of blue light are cumulative, and over time can lead to eye diseases.
“It’s harder now to maintain 20/20 vision, especially with kids—yaya na ’yung gadgets,” Azarcon pointed out. “Our eyes are not designed for menial work. We used to be hunters, looking out in the distance. Now we are exposed to shorter, stronger waves of light.”
Children these days are susceptible to blue light as they are more exposed to computers every day, even in schools. Most have access to their own mobile devices, like cell phones, laptops and tablets. Even more dangerous is that children’s eyes are still developing, Azarcon noted.
“That’s why it’s important to also have children’s eyes screened, even babies,” said Azarcon. “Even if they can’t read yet, doctors have special tools and procedures. If you are able to catch the problem at a young age, then there’s a big chance you can get the maximum potential vision of the patient.”
If treated correctly, from birth to development of the eye, a young child’s eye problem will not worsen. This is a critical stage, said Azarcon.
“Remember that glasses are not medicines, that if you use them your eyes will get cured,” she said. “If you want your eyes cured, go to an eye laser surgeon. But eyeglasses are here to help you see clearer. There’s no such thing as correctional glasses. They correct it, in a sense that you are able to see clearly when you wear it, but the minute you take it off, you still have an eye problem.”
One of the best ways to protect the eyes from blue light is by wearing glasses that protect the eyes from harmful wavelengths. These are state-of-the-art, slightly tinted eyeglasses designed to shield the eyes from the blue light. At Owndays, they call it the PC glasses or Blue Shield.
“The blurring of vision depends on the activity—in this case, too much computer work. There’s really just too much exposure to blue light today that young children and adults need to protect their eyes if they want to avoid certain eye diseases as they age,” she said.
PC lenses cut out approximately 45 percent of the blue light. They are lenses with no grades, she said, but can also be custom-fitted specific to your eyes’ needs.
“We have 1,500 styles to choose from, and we also have new styles every three weeks—from basic to functional to fashionable,” said Michaela Cabrera, marketing officer at Owndays.
Owndays follows a simple pricing method. The Japan-technology glasses, including ultra-thin multicoated aspherical lenses and frames, can be had anywhere from P2,990 to P5,990. Price depends on the frame one chooses.
“We encourage people to buy many pairs. If you have many pairs of shoes, from sports to party to work, then you should have different glasses to suit your activities or mood. Glasses, after all, are the first thing people notice when they see you. Filipinos should learn to invest in their eyes,” Azarcon said.
Owndays is at Estancia Mall, Glorietta 2, Robinsons Place Manila, UP Town Center, Landmark Makati, Festival Mall, Landmark TriNoma, and Uptown Mall.