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Glaucoma in the Digital Age: How Screen Time Affects Your Eyes

Until more definitive research is available, being proactive about your screen time habits is smart for eye health.

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photo of an older man reading a laptop computer screen with his smart phone next to him on the desk
photo of an older man reading a laptop computer screen with his smart phone next to him on the desk

Glaucoma in the Digital Age: How Screen Time Affects Your Eyes

Until more definitive research is available, being proactive about your screen time habits is smart for eye health.

In today’s digital era, many people are dependent on screens — from the omnipresent smartphone to indispensable computers. While integral to our modern lifestyle, these technological marvels harbor hidden perils, especially for our eyes. Among the most alarming risks aggravated by our prolonged exposure to these digital companions is the potential exacerbation of glaucoma.

When you spend long periods gazing at screens, be it a computer, TV, phone, or tablet, you’re subjected to the blue light emitted by these devices. Sensational claims have suggested excessive screen time and blue light exposure can lead to blindness. However, scientific research has not found conclusive evidence that the blue light of digital screens causes eye damage.

What Is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, affecting approximately 80 million people worldwide, including more than three million Americans. It’s often related to increased pressure within the eye. However, for unclear reasons, different optic nerves have varying susceptibility to damage from a given eye pressure. 

Glaucoma can lead to visual field loss and blindness in severe cases and when untreated. The main type of glaucoma in Western countries is primary open-angle glaucoma. 

The symptoms are usually not noticeable at first, making regular eye exams critical. There is currently no cure for glaucoma, but doctors can effectively use medications, lasers, and surgical procedures to prevent or slow further damage from occurring. 

Screen Time and Eye Strain

Staring at digital screens for long periods can contribute to a condition known as computer vision syndrome (CVS). Symptoms of CVS include eye strain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and neck/shoulder pain. Factors like reduced blinking, glare, awkward sitting posture, and constant visual focus at short distances cause these symptoms.

While not inherently dangerous, frequent eye strain can reduce eye comfort and visual function over time. It may also exacerbate issues in those at risk for certain eye diseases.

Links Between Screen Time and Glaucoma

Prolonged screen time and digital device use are not currently considered as a risk factor for glaucoma. While a couple of studies suggest that digital device usage and subsequent eye strain could potentially influence the development and progression of glaucoma, a direct link between screen time and glaucoma is not currently accepted. 

However, more research is still needed to determine whether digital device usage and glaucoma risk/progression are causally connected. 

Tips for Healthy Screen Use

Until more definitive research exists, being proactive about screen habits is smart for eye health. Here are tips for reducing eye strain and glaucoma risk with frequent digital device use:

  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule by taking a 20-second break every 20 minutes to view something 20 feet away, relieving eye strain.
  • Blink frequently to keep your eyes lubricated since we blink less when staring at screens.
  • Adjust screen brightness, lighting, glare, text size, and viewing distance to optimize comfort.
  • Maintain good posture and ergonomics when using devices.
  • Get comprehensive eye exams from an eye doctor to evaluate eye health.

 

The relationship between screen time and glaucoma is complex and still under investigation. However, the potential risks highlight the need for awareness and preventive measures to protect our eye health in the digital era.

Being mindful of healthy screen habits, getting regular eye checks, and consistently managing glaucoma (if applicable) can help preserve vision in the digital age. Early intervention for those at increased glaucoma risk is vital to preventing vision loss.

Help Us Provide Hope 

Glaucoma can be successfully treated with early diagnosis, treatment, and careful monitoring, preventing it from causing permanent and significant vision impairment. 

The diligent work of researchers continues to lead to a better understanding of glaucoma every day. As a result, there’s great hope for new and improved treatments, including superior drug delivery methods, laser treatments, and less invasive surgical techniques. You can help make that happen! Your support can help dedicated researchers continue to discover the causes and cures for glaucoma. In addition, your donations give hope to those living with glaucoma and accelerate our search for a cure.

 

Article reviewed for medical accuracy by Lisa M. Young, OD, FAAO. Posted on January 5, 2025

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Lisa M. Young, OD, FAAO

Lisa M. Young, OD completed a primary care and ocular disease residency at the Illinois College of Optometry. She is a member of the Optometric Glaucoma Society, and a fellow of the American Academy of Optometry. She is an adjunct assistant professor at the Illinois College of Optometry and Chicago College of Optometry at Midwestern University.