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Perhaps “screen junky” isn’t a label befitting someone who is required to stare at screens all day for work, but whether you’re working, binging a show, gaming, or all of the above, you may notice some eye health issues start to develop as a result of heavy screen use.
The solution to these issues is partially case-dependent because certain screen-watching habits can hasten the onset of symptoms like dry eye or eye strain, while other habits may help to delay these problems.
We’ll explain how screens affect eye health and what you can do about it in terms of nutrition and activity modification, but only you can tailor your own program to fit perfectly.
First, the not-so-great news—don’t worry, it gets better.
It’s not just screens themselves, but how we use them that raises risks for eye health, sleep, and postural problems.
For example, screen users tend to blink less, slouch, and focus on screens without looking away for hours at a time, which worsens the issues directly related to looking at a screen.
Collectively referred to as “Digital Eye Strain” or DES, the following symptoms have been repeatedly observed in people who routinely use screens:
That twinge in your neck or the pounding headache may seem like the worst of the symptoms, but they’re often quietly upstaged by a particularly insidious threat to healthy sleep patterns: blue lights.
According to a study by Aston University in Birmingham, UK, blue-light exposure prior to bedtime can disrupt sleep patterns by interfering with melatonin production, the sleep-promoting hormone that we only produce in “dim light conditions.”
Thankfully, there are many steps that frequent screen users can take to ameliorate this issue and many of the others listed above, involving nutritional changes, supplementation, and a few crucial tweaks to screen-watching habits.
The most effective way to attack this issue is to consider both direct and indirect consequences of prolonged screen use so you can intercept them all before they take hold and play off of each other.
Yes, dieting is involved, but thanks to high-quality eye health supplements, it’s not as restrictive a change as you might think.
Essential fatty acids (EFA) are showing promise in the arena of dry-eye treatment and prevention.
According to a finding by New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine, this includes omega-3s and omega-6s, which can be found in fish, canola oil, walnuts, soybeans, and fortified foods like juice and yogurt.
The study reports on three clinical trials using EFA for dry eye, all of which reported a positive correlation between omega-3/omega-6 consumption and one or more markers of eye inflammation or distress.
Furthermore, a class of compounds called carotenoids were discovered to act as personal blue-light filters in a fascinating study out of Dusseldorf, Germany’s Heinrich Heine University.
Experimenters inserted carotenoids into the outer layer of cell-like structures called liposomes before exposing the liposomes to blue light.
The total light emission measured in these liposomes was significantly lower than that of liposomes without carotenoids, leading the experimenters to conclude that the inserted carotenoids guard against blue light.
Carotenoids (e.g., lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, and lycopene) can be found in tomatoes, carrots, yams, spinach, bell peppers, and other fruits and vegetables; they are what give these foods their colors.
Vitamin A has been directly associated with a decreased risk of macular degeneration by a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, as further explained in this University Putra Malaysia finding.
Vitamins C and E are also instrumental in the fight against overexposure to screens, though as antioxidants, their effects are less directly related to the cells of the eye.
Vitamin A can be found in fish, dairy products, and some fruits and vegetables; vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, broccoli, and potatoes, among other foods; and vitamin E is found in avocados, nuts, blackberries, and other fruits and vegetables.
Finally, we arrive at the honorable mentions.
It’s not for any perceived ineffectiveness that the following items are listed in this category, but rather, their volume and similarity to the above mentions that encourage a broader review.
According to various sources, including an article by Boston’s Tuft University, the following nutrients have also been verified in trials to promote various aspects of eye health:
Considering how many nutrients contribute to eye health, it’s hard to miss if you simply follow a conventionally healthy diet including plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and so forth.
The most consistent and convenient way to assure you get the most effective amounts of these nutrients is to consult the help of a high-quality supplement.
This particular vein of the supplement industry is marginally less “noisy” than that of sports nutrition products, but still, it’s not hard to take a wrong turn in terms of quality and reliability.
Concentrated Fish Oil: Omega-7 (Palmitoleic Acid), Lutein, Zeaxanthin, Astaxanthin, Bilberry Extract, Anthocyanins. Zinc, Vitamin E, Concentrated Fish (Pollock) Oil containing Omega-7 Fatty Acid Ethyl Ester, Fish (Tilapia) Gelatin, Palm Glycerin, Purified Water, Identity Preserved Non-GMO Vitamin E (Sunflower), FloraGLO Lutein in Safflower Oil, Zeaxanthin in Safflower Oil, Zinc Picolinate, Non-GMO Mixed Tocopherols (Natural Vitamin E), Astaxanthin, Bilberry Extract, Sunflower Lecithin, Beeswax.
A nutritionally dense softgel containing fish oil, lutein, and a range of other ingredients beneficial for long-term eye health.
That’s why we only support naturally derived, effective, and thoroughly battle-tested supplements like Wiley’s Finest Bold Vision Proactive and Similasan Dry Eye Relief Drops.
Wiley’s Finest Bold Vision Proactive provides a comprehensive blend of Mother Nature’s greatest hits for eye health, including omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin E, zinc, EPA and DHA (omega-3 fatty acids), and more.
These softgels are free of sugar, gluten, starch, yeast, wheat, dairy, artificial flavors/colors, nuts, shellfish, soy, and corn, and they’re specially formulated for digital eye strain.
If you prefer drops for more immediately noticeable improvements to dry, itchy eyes, Switzerland-based Similasan takes a refreshing approach with their Dry Eye Relief Drops.
Unlike other brands who use chemical additives to powerfully, but temporarily blanket dry eye symptoms, Similasan’s drops utilize homeopathic ingredients in the form of botanical extracts to actually address the causes behind these eye-health issues.
As a result, their safety-conscious drops have no known side effects.
The best way to get the most out of these supplements and, ideally, the nutritional improvements that they build upon, is to pair these efforts with a small set of tweaks in your screen-watching habits.
This may be a tad redundant for office workers who have already had their workspace and posture evaluated by an ergonomics consultant or in-house specialist, but many don’t have that luxury.
First and foremost, it’s vital to keep the screen at a distance of at least twenty centimeters away, per OSHA recommendations.
Also, make sure that the top border of the screen is at or below eye level, and that your chin is tucked back and towards your chest as far as it can comfortably be; these changes should help with both neck pain and eye strain.
Make sure your screen and the light in your workspace are on the dimmer side, but not so dim that you have to strain to read.
Concerning break frequency, occupational therapists and eye experts have drawn a hard line at the 20-20-20 rule, which recommends staring at a spot twenty feet away from you for twenty seconds every twenty minutes.
It may sound trivial at first, but one of the most important forms of prevention in terms of digital eye strain is simply blinking more.
When we focus on screens, we tend to forget to blink as often, which kickstarts all kinds of problematic processes in the eye.
Blinking clears the eye of debris and prompts glands to lubricate the eyes, keeping them clean, refreshed, and ready to work.
The more you lean into each of these three pillars of eye health—nutrition, supplementation, and habit changes—the more prepared you will be to fight off the effects of prolonged screen use.
Energy drinks and sugary snacks may be louder, sweeter, and faster-acting than natural sources of sugar, but rarely are those benefits conferred without some form of reckoning down the road.
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