Skip to main content

2 locations, 1 phone number
New Tampa & Westchase
Call (813) 358-0400
Schedule An Appointment

Home »

computer vision syndrome

Top Ten New Years Resolutions for Screen time and Kids Eyes

(Note – You can read my previous Top Ten New Year’s Resolutions for Healthy Vision for Eye Health, Children’s Vision, Saving Money on Eyecare, Myopia Control, and Computer Vision Syndrome, -Dr. Nate)

Did your child receive any gifts with screens this holiday season? Or gifts such as a movie or new video game that are viewed on screens? My kids did. And they are VERY excited about them. They are not alone. The kids that I see in my office beg, whine, wheedle, and cajole their parents into as much screen time as possible. Many of them have their own tablets. And this is incredibly common. In fact, one 2015 study found that three quarters of 4 year-olds had their own devices.

There are obvious benefits for children to use technology. They can watch educational programming, Skype with distant friends and relatives, and download STEM and creative apps. But all of this screen time can come with downsides. One is childhood obesity. Another is social awareness and skill.

Others problem associated with screen time have to do with vision. This is something I talk about all day, every day at Bright Eyes Kids. Increased screen time can put children at risk for myopia (nearsightedness). Games such as Minecraft can be great, but can cause headaches and blurry vision due to eyestrain. In fact, eyestrain from device use can actually contribute to digital eyestrain or other visual problems that can make school work more difficult and require vision therapy to treat.

10 ways to keep your child’s electronic device use healthy:

  1. Set a clear Family Media Use Plan. For example, in my house, my children are not allowed screen time before noon. It is worth reading the American Academy of Pediatrics statement on media use from October 2016 to get some ideas.
  2. Optometrists recommend that people of all ages limit screen time to 20 minute intervals. Teach your child about the 202020 rule, every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break, and focus on something 20 feet away. Every hour, take a longer break.
  3. Buy a blue light reducing screen protector for your child’s phone, computer or tablet. http://health-e.com/offers one that reduces by 30%, but they offer through select optometrists 60% reduction.
  4. Mitigate the potential damage of focusing on close images, by having your child spend 2 hours a day outside. A recent study showed a 2% reduction of Myopia progression for every hour a week spent outside, or 28% for 2 hours a day.
  5. Minimize electronic device usage at night, a recent Harvard study showed that blue light at night effects melatonin levels, which effect sleep, blood sugar levels, and may be linked to certain other diseases.
  6. Ask your doctor about computer glasses or contacts which are specially designed to reduce eye strain by reducing the visual focus needed for computer use.
  7. Create fun alternatives to electronic devices, write a list of “cool” activities to do throughout the week. Great alternatives are outdoor time, board games, and creative projects. Even things as simple as walking to grocery store can be more rewarding than most things are your child’s screen.
  8. Role model proper screen use. As always our children learn from us, if we are glued to the screen, they will be less likely to take screen limitations seriously. Make a New Year’s resolution to limit your screen time and be more present for your kids. This is hard, but important!
  9. Make sure your child’s posture is not being affected by the chair or couch they are using while watching TV or on the computer. Adolescents with high computer usage were nearly twice as likely to report neck and back pain than those with moderate use.
  10. Talk to your eye doctor if your child avoids using the computer or complains about blurred vision or eye fatigue when using a screen, as this may signify a larger issue that needs to be addressed.

Happy New Year. May 2017 be better than 2016. 🙂

-Dr. Nate

Schedule An Appointment

Minecraft & Your Child’s Eyes

minecraftMinecraft doesn’t come up in conversation every day at Bright Eyes Kids, but pretty close to it. I typically ask all my patients, young and old, what they do for fun and Minecraft is the first thing many kids say. And if you spend any time at a mall, school, or other place with kids, you will see lots of kids in Minecraft-themed t-shirts (but you might not get the jokes unless you have played it yourself.) And now Microsoft just bought the company that makes Minecraft for $2.5 Billion (with a B). Clearly they think someone is playing this game.

I don’t have a “love/hate” relationship with Minecraft. It is more of “respect/worry” relationship.

There are many reasons why I respect Minecraft. I have read the story of how Minecraft came to be, and I must say, it is pretty cool: one guy making a game that became a community, mostly by himself. Being a huge Lego fan, I like the simplicity of building with digital blocks. I love all of the amazingly creative projects that dedicated players build.
But I do worry about all the Minecrafters. We have long known that Computer Vision Syndrome can affect office workers who spend their day on the computer. But children who spend a lot of time at the computer can develop the same symptoms. Simple Google searches show that Minecraft fans complain of blurry vision, headache, eye strain and red eyes, and they worry that the game is harming their eyesight.

Check out the infographic at the bottom of the post. It shows that kids are using devices for both fun and schoolwork. Parents tend to underestimate how much time their children use devices. Some kids use devices a lot – 7 hours or more each. I am betting that they do not find their off-screen homework as compelling as games like Minecraft.

Take this scenario: Parents bring in a child for an eye examination because their child is having headaches and blurry vision that only started in the last few months. When I ask if anything changed in this time, they will mention that their child got an iPad and have been playing Minecraft and other games. The evaluation confirms that the child is now having eyestrain and focusing problems from excessive device use.

This is more common than you might expect. In a recent AOA survey 4 out of 5 (or 83%) of kids say they have tired or blurry eyes after device use. That is a huge number!

Here are some suggestions to keep children’s eyes comfortable while using a device:

  • Check in with them, so you know how they are doing. Kids often don’t realize they are having problems.
  • Have them take frequent breaks (follow the 20-20-20 rule)
  • Limit their overall scree time and make them get outside.
  • Make sure they hold the device at a safe distance (Elbow distance)
  • Keep even room lighting
  • Wear reading glasses, if prescribed
If you have concerns about your children’s eyes or have concerns about the effect that device use may be having on their eyes and vision, call us to book an appointment. We would be happy to see your children at either Bright Eyes Family Vision Care in Westchase or the office just for children, Bright Eyes Kids in New Tampa.

DrNateSig

 

Schedule An Appointment

screen_time_infographic

Mashable’s Great New Computer Vision Syndome Infographic

CVS MashableIf you spend a lot of time on the internet, then you probably are familiar with Mashable. It is pretty much the leading website covering online and high-tech trends. Mashable knows its readers and knows they spend a lot of time on computers and digital devices. Therefore, it continues to publish information about Computer Vision Syndrome – the group of visual conditions that affect people who spend many hours on the computer.

Last year Mashable published the article I wrote, 5 Important Tips for Better Eye Health in a Digital World. Recently, they published a great infographic (thumbnail on the right), with lots of useful information about how eyes and technology interact.

Check it out and, as always, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to come in for an eye exam. 🙂

Dr. Nate

Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care
Located in the Westchase area of Tampa.

New EyeFiles Video on How Computer Use Can Affect Children’s Vision

Have you ever flown on an airplane? While watching the luggage come and go, you’ve probably noticed that all of the workers have large earmuffs on. Why earmuffs in Florida? They wear them because the planes are loud! Workers at airports need to protect their ears so the noise won’t hurt them and cause hearing problems.

Workers in offices also have to be careful, not usually from loud noise but from computer use. Just like repeated exposure to loud noise can cause hearing problems, long hours focusing on the computer or digital device can cause eyestrain and vision problems. This is called Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) and it can lead to problems like watery, irritated eyes, headache, neck pain, and reduced efficiency at work.

Every day, I talk to patients who deal with computer vision syndrome, and I recommend ways that they can protect their eyes and vision. The right computer set up and lighting is important. Taking breaks is important. For some people, I prescribe computer vision glasses to help relieve eyestrain. You can read more about this in an article I wrote for Mashable called 5 Important Tips for Better Eye Heath in a Digital World.

But protecting our eyes and ears is not just for adults or just for work. In fact, children may be even more susceptible to certain problems than adults because they are still growing and developing. And increasingly, much of their work AND play takes place on digital devices, so parents need to be aware of how computers can affect their children and their eyes.

I’m happy to share that VSP Vision Care has a new EyeFiles video out specifically about computer vision syndrome and children:

For more specific information, check out this handy Question and Answer handout that I helped VSP Vision Care create to accompany the video. It discusses:

  • What digital eyestain is
  • How it can affect kids
  • What the symptoms are
  • Steps parents can take to reduce symptoms

If you have any questions or concerns about how the computer or handheld device is affecting your children’s eyes, please stop by or call us. You can also read previous CVS blog posts here.

Dr. Nate

Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care
Located in the Westchase area of Tampa.
Dr Nate Google PlusBright Eyes Tampa on Google PlacesBright Eyes Tampa on FacebookBright Eyes Tampa on TwitterBright Eyes Tampa on YelpBright Eyes Tampa on foursquareWestchase PatchEmpower electronic bifocals at Bright Eyes

Questions and Answers about Video Games and Vision

I was originally asked these questions by email for an interview about video games and vision. I was excited because there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about how video games can affect your eyes. Unfortunately, the interview was not published, so I decided to print them here. If you have questions like this, please let me know. -Dr. Nate

Does playing video games cause more stress to the eyes than watching tv?

Playing video games is considerably more stressful for the eyes than watching TV, but it depends a lot on which form the games take. Games on the TV like Playstation and Xbox are different than games on the computer, such as World of Warcraft, which are different than handheld games like those for Nintendo DS (and soon 3DS).

The visual system is designed for looking at things far away without effort, assuming the eyes are healthy and, if needed, the correct glasses or contacts are being worn. When looking up-close, the eyes have to change focus and position. The, over time, adds up in a big way. If the visual system is overwhelmed, gamers can have blurry vision, eye strain or headaches. If the eyes are too stressed to move properly, double vision and reduced performance can result. All this is made worse under stressful situations, overall fatigue, and times of extended mental concentration.

As a former gamer (before I had kids), I know that an awesome video game is much more likely to generate stressful situations, require extended mental concentration, and lead to fatigue from sleep deprivation than a random TV show. So gamers are already predisposed to have eye and vision problems.

But here is an additional twist: When we are under stress we have a “fight or flight” response. In this situation, our eyes are evolutionarily adapted to focus in the distance. This was useful when we were hunters and gatherers to help us see what we were hunting and what was hunting us. But it’s counter-productive when at the computer.

Finally, it’s known that people blink much less at the computer than at other times – as much as 60% less. When people don’t blink, the moisture on their eyes evaporates leading to dry, burning, irritated eyes and blurry vision. All of these things together are referred to as Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS.) Although CVS gets more attention in the workplace, it applies to recreational computer users, too.

What’s the best advice for video gamers regarding eye fatigue?

Hands down, the best advice is to take frequent breaks. There is a rule of thumb that eye doctors tell patients called the “20/20/20 Rule.” This means that every 20 minutes, look away from the screen at something specific at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds, like a clock or a picture. When looking away blink your eyes several times and take deep, relaxing breaths.

When looking away, take note if the object you’re looking at in the distance starts off blurry and then slowly gets clear, as this is an indication that your eyes are working too hard and that you should take a longer break. Unfortunately, that is much easier said than done, because video games are extremely engaging. When gamers are “in the zone” they often don’t stop to eat or drink, let alone take a 20/20/20 Rule break. Some people will put post-it notes on the monitors or set alarms to remind them.

Also, set up your gaming environment ergonomically. Make sure that your monitor is approximately two feet away from your eyes and not at an unusual angle. It’s best if there are soft lights on in the room so there’s not a big brightness difference between the screen and the surrounding space.

Remember to talk to your eye doctor during your annual exam about your computer use – both work AND at home. Let him or her know if you experience blurriness, fatigue, double vision, burning or discomfort at the computer. Some people think those things are just “normal” and ignore it, but that isn’t a good idea. Sometimes these symptoms are the sign of more significant underlying problems. Your doctor can do specialized testing to determine the problem. You may be given a prescription for special eyeglasses for the computer, eye drops to use, or a recommendation for therapeutic techniques called vision therapy.

Dr. Nate

Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care
Located in the Westchase area of Tampa.
Dr Nate Google PlusBright Eyes Tampa on Google PlacesBright Eyes Tampa on FacebookBright Eyes Tampa on TwitterBright Eyes Tampa on YelpBright Eyes Tampa on foursquareWestchase Patch

Top Ten New Year’s Resolutions for Computer Vision Syndrome

If 2010 has taught me anything, it is that our lives are becoming increasingly digital. Not only is more of our work performed on computers and online, but much of our leisure time, too. This is illustrated by the fact that Amazon has recently announced that it has sold more Kindles than any other book or product. But all of this time in front of screens can take its toll on our eyes. They may become irritated and red. Your vision may become blurry or double. And all this may make you less productive at work or reduce your gaming performance. All of these symptoms are elements of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). Fortunately, there are things that you can do limit the effects of CVS.

Every new year I provide the Bright Eyes Family Vision Care Top Ten New Year’s Resolutions. In past years, I’ve covered eye health, children’s vision, and saving money. So for 2011, to help you keep your eyes in optimum condition at the computer or digital device, this year’s resolutions list will help you combat Computer Vision Syndrome.

1. Take Breaks – Your eyes work hard when using the computer, e-readers, and phones. Give them some time to relax. Use the “20-20-20 rule.” Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break, and look at something 20 feet away. Every hour or so, talk a longer break. I use and recommend a free application called Workrave that is fully customizable to help you remember to give your eyes (and hands) a rest.

2. Monitor Settings – Today most people have LCD screens. Generally, the larger the screen the better. Increase the font size if it helps.

3. Monitor Position – Position your monitor at least 22 inches away and at an angle that you don’t have to look up most of the time. Making it a natural, comfortable position can help limit eyestrain and neck problems.

4. Blink! – Research studies show that people blink less when using the computer, up to 1/3 less. Blinking washes your eyes in naturally Computerstherapeutic tears, so be sure to blink on a regular basis.

5. Glasses – Make sure you have proper lenses for the computer. Specially prescribed computer glasses may help significantly reduce the symptoms of CVS. Often these are different from glasses for driving and general activities like shopping. Ask your optometrist if you would benefit from computer lenses.

6. Lighting – Keep bright lighting overhead to a minimum. Keep your desk lamp or window light shining on your desk, not on your monitor. Try to keep window light off to the side, rather than in front or behind you.

7. Position your chair – Your body position effects your eye position – and vice versa. Make sure you are sitting in a chair with adequate lower-back support. Position your chair so that you are comfortable. Each person has a preference for his or her chair, so take some time to find what’s best for you.

8. Eye exams – Be sure to discuss CVS with your optometrist at your annual eye exam. He or she will discuss your computer use and can perform specific tests to determine if you would benefit from computer glasses, eye drops or medical treatment.

9. Gadgets – iPads, Kindles, Blackberries and other mobile devices are hugely useful, but have tiny screens and can cause even more symptoms than a desktop computer. Be aware of issues like glare and be sure and take frequent breaks.

10. Don’t forget the kids! – Keep in mind that children can experience CVS, too. And they are less self-aware and are less likely to tell parents if they are having problems. So set limits ahead of time and watch them for any signs of visual problems. This applies to hand-held games, too – especially soon to be released Nintendo 3DS.

If you didn’t have a thorough eye exam in 2010, don’t put it off any longer. Give us a call at 813-792-0637 to schedule your appointment. We’ll make sure your eyes are working their best at the computer! You can also read more about Computer Vision Syndrome on our blog.

A special thanks to Dr. Jeffrey Anshel of Corporate Vision Consulting for providing input for this list.

See Well!

Dr. Nate

Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care

 

Dr. Nate Writes Computer Vision Syndrome Article for Mashable

Computer Vision syndrome Tampa

At Bright Eyes, many of our patients spend a lot of time at the computer. We try to educate these patients about Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) so that they can be as productive as possible.

As a recent guest writer for the tech website Mashable, Dr. Nate discussed in the article here, tips on how to protect your eyes in an increasingly digital world. An important example is the 20-20-20 rule, which advises that every 20 minutes take a 20 second break and look at something 20 feet away.

The response received is a further testament to the number of people who are affected by the symptoms of computer vision syndrome. The article has garnered over 2,000 “likes” through Facebook and over 2,300 tweets in Twitterville. With more and more information becoming available in tiny font at our fingertips, it is important that we are aware of the risks from both computers and handheld devices, and take the proper steps to protect our eyes.

If you find your eyes feeling tired or fatigued, your vision blurry or double or get headaches when working on the computer, be sure to have a thorough eye exam by your optometrist. If you would like a recommendation for an eye doctor in your area, feel free to ask us.

Justin Schoonover, CPO

Bright Eyes Family Vision Care
Located in the Westchase area of Tampa.
Dr Nate Google PlusBright Eyes Tampa on Google PlacesBright Eyes Tampa on FacebookBright Eyes Tampa on TwitterBright Eyes Tampa on YelpBright Eyes Tampa on foursquareWestchase Patch

VSP’s Ask an Eye Docotor: Live Q and A about Computer Vision Syndrome

qmWith American workers now spending over 858 million hours a day using digital devices and kids consuming electronic media up to 7.5 hours a day, health problems caused by computers aren’t going away any time soon.

In fact, vision problems related to computer and hand-held device are so common, they collectively have a name: Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). I talk about CVS literally every single day with patients.

That is why I am so excited that VSP Vision Care, the largest eye care benefits provider in the US, is hosting a live ‘Ask an Eye Doctor’ web event next Tuesday. It will feature me discussing and answering questions about CVS. I’ll talk about what it is and how you can keep your eyes comfortable when using digital devices.

Here are the details:
Register here: https://my.dimdim.com/vspvisioncare (Check out the widget on the top right)
When: Tuesday, September 21 at 2:00pm EST 11:00am PST

What: A live Q&A about Computer Vision Syndrome, a common condition that occurs in people who spend extended time in front of a computer screen.
Where: https://my.dimdim.com/vspvisioncare ?

If you have questions about CVS that you’d like to submit, email them to me at AskDrNate@brighteyestampa.com.

You can also find more info on CVS here:
http://vspblog.com/2010/07/29/eye-health-for-the-workplace/

See Well!

Dr. Nate

Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care
Located in the Westchase area of Tampa.

Dr Nate Google PlusBright Eyes Tampa on Google PlacesBright Eyes Tampa on FacebookBright Eyes Tampa on TwitterBright Eyes Tampa on YelpBright Eyes Tampa on foursquareWestchase Patch

Computer Vision Syndrome in The Wall Street Journal

If you’re like me or countless others who work at a computer for many hours a day, you’d be interested to learn that there is a term for the eye fatigue and strain you get after a long days work. Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) was highlighted in this article today in The Wall Street Journal. The reason for this problem is because most of us who wear corrective lenses, and even those who don’t need glasses at all, are not being corrected for the proper focal length at which our computer monitors are sitting. Our eyes stay in this focused state for long periods at a time, usually without breaks to help our eyes relax.

There are options listed in the article to treat the symptoms of CVS, including a dedicated pair of computer glasses made to focus at your monitor, multifocal contacts, and even corrective surgery. Some are obviously more conservative than others, but one thing that most doctors will agree upon is that short, frequent breaks are always recommended for anyone who works extensively at a computer. Dr. Nate was even quoted!

The Wall Street Journal: How Technology Tries Our Eyesight

All The Best!

Justin Schoonover, CPO

Bright Eyes Family Vision Care
Located in the Westchase area of Tampa.

Dr Nate Google PlusBright Eyes Tampa on Google PlacesBright Eyes Tampa on FacebookBright Eyes Tampa on TwitterBright Eyes Tampa on YelpBright Eyes Tampa on foursquareWestchase Patch

Dr. Nate’s “Workplace Vision” guest post for VSP Blog

Many of our patients have VSP as their primary vision plan. VSP is the largest and most influential of the vision plans and for the last several years they have embraced social media to help educate their millions of member on eye and vision heath issues.

Recently, VSP contacted me to see if I would be interested in writing a guest post for their blog on vision at the workplace. Since Computer Vision Syndrome is a specialty of mine, I was happy to contribute. The result is this blog post. You can also watch a very cool video, download an eye health guide for the workplace, and enter to win an IPad at VSP Facebook page here.

Dr. Nate

Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care
Located in the Westchase area of Tampa.

Dr Nate Google PlusBright Eyes Tampa on Google PlacesBright Eyes Tampa on FacebookBright Eyes Tampa on TwitterBright Eyes Tampa on YelpBright Eyes Tampa on foursquareWestchase Patch

Book Appointment Click to Call (813) 358-0400 Take Me There