LEWISTOWN - The average time a person spends on digital media per day has increased by two hours and five minutes since 2010, marking this as the first year people will spend more time on their computers and cellphones than watching television, according to eMarketer, a company that monitors marketing and media trends.
In total, people spend an average of five hours and 16 minutes per day online, using a computer or cell phone, states eMarketer.com.
However, in addition to keeping people up-to-date on the latest happenings, this increase in digital media usage is also responsible for an increase in diagnosed computer vision syndrome, said Dr. Dane Spriggle, of Watson's Optical, in Lewistown.
"Computer vision syndrome is generally that feeling of eye strain that occurs after being in front of a screen for an extended amount of time," Spriggle said. "While it doesn't cause the eye permanent damage, it can be a condition that occurs every day depending on the patient's use of computer and phone."
The syndrome is caused from being close to a screen for a long amount of time, said Dr. Roderick Beazer of Harvatine Optometry Inc., in Burnham. Essentially the eye muscles freeze and lock into a nearsighted position instead of constantly looking at a variety of distances as the eyes are used to, he said.
"Symptoms include blurred vision, dry eyes, strain, headaches and possible neck and shoulder pain," Beazer said. "It will take longer for the eyes to adjust when looking far away. It's also possible that the problem will compound further if a person doesn't have the right glasses prescription."
According to computervisionsyndrome.org, if a someone spends more than two hours a day in front of computer or phone they have a 90 percent chance of developing CVS, the website states, and without proper vision correction, productivity can decrease by as much as 20 percent.
For people with glasses who use a computer regularly, whether at work, home or school, it's good to get the eyes checked and discuss glasses designed specifically for computer use, Beazer said. Even people who don't use glasses regularly may benefit from such a discussion, he said.
It's also important to adhere to the 20-20-20 rule when using a computer or smart phone for an extended amount of time, Spriggle said. For every 20 minutes of screen time, focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This exercise allows the eye muscles to stretch and stay flexible, he said.
The computer screen should also be kept 20 inches away from the eyes and phones should be held eight to 10 inches away, Beazer said.
Spriggle also suggests placing the computer monitor or phone screen at eye level or lower so the eye is not strained by constantly looking upward.
For more information on computer vision syndrome, visit the American Optometric Association website at www.aoa.org.