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Too much screen time on digital devices can damage vision

Prolonged use of digital devices can cause Computer Vision Syndrome with symptoms of headaches, eye strain, and blurred vision.

NORFOLK, Va., (WVEC) -- Seven hours a day — that's how long many of us spend glaring at digital devices such as computer screens and cellphones.

While the nation is on the fast track along the information superhighway, device users might want to slow down. There is a painful toll ahead: It is called Computer Vision Syndrome.

Seven hours a day is on the conservative side.

At Cafe Stella in downtown Norfolk, many coffee lovers revealed they spend almost half their waking hours with a digital screen only inches away from their twenty-something eyes.

Twenty-six-year-old medical school student Jacy Wang spends at least eight hours a day on the computer. Three years removed from laser eye surgery, she has already noticed a deterioration in acuity.

"My vision acuity has already started rapidly getting worse since my Lasik procedure just because I am on the computer so much," Wang said.

Across the coffee shop, Katie Rogan reads the newspaper while glancing at her smartphone.

The 23-year-old spends at least eight hours a day in front of a computer screen at work.

Before she retires for the evening, she spends another two hours with her trusted digital devices. Her young eyes are already crying out for help.

"My eyes are definitely stressed, but I don't think about it. I've gotten used to it," Rogan said.

The American Optometric Association — concerned about the amount of time patients spend on computers and cell phones — has set aside March as Save Your Vision Month.

Computer Vision Syndrome, also called Digital Eye Strain, is a group of eye and vision-related problems that are caused by the prolonged use of computer screens, smartphones, and digital tablets.

The symptoms include eye strain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and neck and shoulder pain.

Optometrist Elizabeth Borza, who treats patients in her Virginia Beach office, screens patients for Computer Vision Syndrome.

Dr. Borza said patients often fail to mention the disorder.

"Eye strain, fatigue ... some people will get headaches, tearing, irritation in the eyes, burning, and dryness. These symptoms are all associated with computer fatigue," Dr. Borza said.

The American Optometric Association recommends if you are tethered to digital devices, follow the 20-20-20 rule.

Take a 20-second break to view something, 20 feet away, every 20 minutes.

The 20-20-20 rule could be vital for children and anyone with vision problems.

"People with uncorrected refractive error ... if you have some amount of prescription or astigmatism associated inside of your eye, having the correction for that [disorder] can decrease glare and light sensitivity in front of a monitor," warns Dr. Borza.

Dr. Borza said to prevent CVS screens should be 4 to 5 inches below eye level and 20 to 28 inches from the eyes. She also recommends tinted lenses that block blue light from computer screens, the use of computer space work lenses or computer progressive lenses.

Good posture is also essential when using devices. Dr. Borza recommends users avoid leaning or hunching forward while keeping the shoulders back with the head level to the screen.

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