Does Looking At My Phone Hurt My Eyes? And What Exactly Is Blue Light?

  • By Germaine Shock
  • 02 Dec, 2016
Smart phones, computers, and tablets have become a big part of almost everyone’s daily lives. Thanks to social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, it is easy to spend an upwards of 8 hours on technology between both work and play. So what does this mean for your eyes exactly? Does spending a lot of time on your smartphone or computer cause damage to your eyes or your vision? The answer might surprise you, so make sure to read to the end. Let’s take a look.

Digital Eye Strain

The What
Those who work primarily in front of a computer screen on a daily basis are probably familiar with digital eye strain aka computer vision syndrome (CVS) even if they have never heard the term. A few of the common CVS symptoms you might experience after a full day of work on a computer or tablet are:

  • Blurred vision
  • Dryness
  • Headaches
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Eyes that feel tired
  • Mild burning
The Why
So what exactly causes digital eye strain? There are a number of contributing factors that can make your peepers feel fatigued. In general, viewing digital screens makes the eyes work harder than they would normally when viewing a piece of paper for example. This is because the text typically isn’t as sharp. Also, the contrast between the background and the words or images isn’t as high, making your eyes strain to differentiate between the two. There can also be struggles with glare and reflections on the screen. Even the angle at which you view your handheld devices and computer screen can cause added stress on your eyes and body.

The Who

Anyone who spends two or more consecutive hours on a computer or handheld electronic device can experience a degree of digital eye strain. Although the symptoms will vary by individual, they usually worsen as the amount of time spent on the computer increases.

Digital eye strain can affect you even if you currently wear glasses or contacts. This is especially true if you are in a pair that aren’t meant specifically for computer use. Since computer monitors typically sit at an intermediate distance in between the correctional powers of traditional near or far prescriptions, your current correction could actually be making your eye strain worse if you spend a lot of time on a computer or handheld device.

What You Can Do

To help alleviate the symptoms of CVS or digital eye strain, there are several suggestions you can follow after narrowing down the cause or causes of your discomfort.

  • The 20-20-20 Rule -  If you will be on the computer for many hours at a time, make sure for every 20 minutes of work you do that you look 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
  • Positioning Your Computer Monitor -  As a general rule of thumb, your computer screen should sit 15-20 degrees below eye level and the center of your screen should be around 20-28 inches from your eyes.
  •   Positioning Your Working Materials -  Any papers, files, or other working materials should ideally be positioned above the keyboard but below the monitor. You can purchase inexpensive document holders to help assist with this if needed.
  • Lighting -  Make sure there are no reflections or glares on your screen. If your computer or work station is located in an area where this simply cannot be helped, there are anti-glare filters that can be attached to your monitor.
  • Body Positioning -  A padded chair will provide the best support and comfort for long hours in front of a screen. Your feet should rest flat on the floor and wrists should not rest on the keyboard when typing.
  • Conscious Blinking -  Your eyes will blink less when you are doing tasks such as reading or working on a computer or handheld device for long periods. Make sure to make a conscious effort to blink more to keep your eyes lubricated.
  • Visit Your Eye Doctor -  If you have a prescription that isn't currently being corrected with glasses or contact lenses, you will likely be experiencing the symptoms of general eye strain on top of digital eye strain which makes for an all around uncomfortable situation. Even if you do currently have glasses or contacts, if they aren't specifically designed to help you at the computer they are likely contributing to your discomfort. Luckily there are special lens powers and designs that your doctor can prescribe to help keep your eyes feeling their best - even if you end up not needing any correction.

Blue Light

While digital eye strain can definitely impact your daily life, it doesn’t cause any sight threatening issues. However, newer studies have linked an increased risk of the vision stealing disease macular degeneration with the blue light emitted from electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, computer screens, and even flat screen tvs.

In extremely condensed terms, blue light is a form of high energy light on the visible light spectrum. While the most common source of blue light is provided from the sun, indoor technology such as computers, flat screen tvs, and handheld devices emit it as well. Although the amount of blue light you are exposed to is only a fraction of what you get from the sun, when you spend large amounts of time on these devices at such a close proximity to your eyes, that amount adds up pretty quickly. 

Furthermore, because the frequency of blue light is so high, the eye has a hard time blocking it on its own. This means that almost all of the blue light you are exposed to reaches your retinas. In addition to contributing to digital eye strain, this exposure to blue light also causes damage to the light sensitive cells in the back of the eye. This is where the risk of macular degeneration becomes increased along with the risk for acquiring it much earlier in life than you normally would.

What This Means For Kids

All of this exposure is especially dangerous for children. With kiddos as young as three years old now watching videos and playing games on iPads, they will be exposed to this damaging light for a much longer time span than today’s adults. Plus, children hold things fairly close to their faces and since most kids this young don’t wear glasses they have zero protection from the blue light.

There is also new research that links excessive handheld device usage in kids with developing crossed eyes as well as an increase in acquired nearsightedness.

What You Can Do

  • Blue Light Protection  - The most important thing you can do for your eyes if you spend a lot of time on computers and handheld devices is to get a pair of glasses with blue light protection. Even if you are lucky enough to not need glasses to improve your vision, it is still a good idea to have a pair of blue light deflecting glasses to use at your computer since these can be made with or without prescription powers in them.
  • Sunglasses -  Of course sunglasses will protect your eyes from the UV rays as well as the blue light emitted from the sun. They will also shield you from premature cataracts as well as cancer  of the eye and lid.
  • Limit Screen Time -  If you work in an industry where you are required to be on a computer for most of the day, this might not be possible. Just remember the 20-20-20 rule mentioned above as well as the other tips to help combat digital eye strain. For your kiddos it's hard to come up with a specific number of time that they should or should not spend on electronic devices. Just use your best judgement and make sure they are getting a good balance between playing on the computer and playing outdoors. And again, make sure to see your eye doctor for blue light protection for both you and your little ones.


By Germaine Shock 06 Dec, 2017

Do your friends often comment on your ‘unique’ choices when it comes to matching colors and patterns? Being fashionably challenged might not be entirely your fault (or it could be). You might be having an extra difficult time due to color blindness.

Color blindness is actually somewhat of a misuse of the word as those affected by the condition can actually still see color - just with a more limited palette. Color vision deficiency is actually the more accurate term. However, there is a rare form of color vision deficiency known as achromatopsia where you are in fact completely devoid of color in your world- but we’ll get to that one a little later. For now, let’s start with the basics.

By Germaine Shock 01 Aug, 2017
By now most all of you have likely seen or are at least familiar with a solar eclipse. Without getting into too much of the scientific details, a solar eclipse happens when the moon moves between the sun and earth during its orbit causing a partial or complete blockage of our view of the sun. Although a solar eclipse only lasts for a few minutes, its thrilling impact will stay with you for much longer.
By Germaine Shock 20 Jul, 2017
School's out for summer! With a little extra free time and flexibility in your schedule, now is the perfect time to  bring your kiddos in for their eye health exams. Most parents will logically assume that since their child hasn’t had any complaints, they must not be having any problems - or that their child is simply too young to need an eye exam. Think again! 
By Germaine Shock 06 Jul, 2017
Sometimes when it comes to kiddos, you’ll find yourself navigating through some gray areas. For example, determining how much screen time is too much - or how old they should be to watch that scary movie. These definitive numbers are so hard to pinpoint simply because no two children are the same. They all mature at different rates, and we as parents have to adjust accordingly. Fortunately, here are a few tips to help in one of those gray areas -  figuring out if your child is ready for contact lenses.
By Germaine Shock 23 Jun, 2017
We have all made a questionable decision or two at least once in our lives. However, when it comes to your eyes and vision, this is one area where it is always better to be safe than sorry. Here are a few of the most common mistakes made by contact lens wearers and a safer alternative to keep those peepers healthy.
By Germaine Shock 14 Jun, 2017

More than likely if you are reading this, you’ve experienced the strange sensation of an eyelid twitch. It can happen anywhere, at any time, and almost always stops the moment you try to point it out to someone else (and of course resumes the second they turn away just to make you look extra crazy). Well you aren’t crazy - at least in this case - eyelid twitches are a real thing!


Better known in professional lingo as “myokymia”, this twitching sensation is the result of involuntary, spontaneous, rippling muscle contractions. These spasms can actually occur in almost any of the muscles in your body. When relating to the eyelids, myokymia is most common in your lower lids but can happen in your top lids as well.

Eyelid myokymia is typically very temporary. The twitching will usually only last for a few minutes, but in some rare cases can last for a few days or even weeks.

Your doctor will likely advise you that there is no cause for concern as common Myokymia resolves on its own without the need for treatment. Other than causing mild annoyance, the eyelid twitching shouldn’t cause any long term complications or interference with your vision.
By Germaine Shock 01 Jun, 2017

Do your eyes ever feel dry and itchy? Do you ever experience eye fatigue, redness, blurred vision, or excessive watering? You could be suffering from dry eyes - especially if you live in Oklahoma City which ranks as the 17th driest city in the U.S. And despite the name, dry eye isn’t just an annoying feeling - it’s a legitimate chronic eye disease that affects an estimated 4.88 million Americans over the age of 50 alone. And since another estimated 89% of the population have never even heard of Dry Eye Syndrome, it’s easy to see why some would just write off those annoying symptoms as a normal part of their lives.

By Germaine Shock 16 May, 2017

In honor of Mother’s Day kicking off Women’s Week, the Eye- Q blog has decided to dedicate a post solely to women’s eye health related issues. So what makes women’s eye health so special? Women are actually more commonly affected than men by a number of ocular health issues including dryness, cataracts, age related macular degeneration, and complications from autoimmune disorders such as Sjogren's or lupus. Furthermore, according to Prevent Blindness America, 66% of people who are blind or visually impaired are women.

Let’s start with that statistic - why are women more at risk for eye complications than men?
By Germaine Shock 05 May, 2017
May is healthy vision month - and as we draw nearer to the official first day of Summer, what better time to discuss one of the most commonly overlooked parts of eye health - UV protection. Most of you are probably fully aware of the negative effects UV rays can have on your skin, but did you know the sun can be just as damaging to your eyes?
By Germaine Shock 25 Apr, 2017

No, it’s not a typo. Sjogren’s - pronounced show-grins - is a type of autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation and damage to various parts of the body; most commonly the tear and saliva glands. This damage results in symptoms ranging from dryness and discomfort to difficulty swallowing and can even affect the lungs and kidneys.

So why exactly does this happen? Let’s start with a quick health lesson. The immune system is responsible for fighting disease and killing harmful viruses and bacteria. However, with autoimmune diseases, your immune system has a hard time knowing when to stop fighting and mistakenly attacks your own body. With Sjogren’s, your exocrine glands - the glands that secrete moisture such as saliva, sweat, tears, breast-milk, gastric mucous, etc - become the main targets.
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