More than 83% of Americans use digital devices more than two hours daily, so this should be part of our patient care.
One of the biggest changes we as a society have seen in the last decade is the unbelievable increase in the use of digital devices by people of all ages. More than 83% of Americans use digital devices for more than two hours daily, and 53.1% use two digital devices simultaneously, according to statistics from The Vision Council. Further, 60.5% experience symptoms of digital eye strain, including eye discomfort, dry eyes, headaches, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain, as a result of prolonged use of computers, tablets and cell phones.
However, we may be missing an opportunity to help our patients and grow our practices. In its latest Digital Device Usage and Your Eyes report, CooperVision found that contact lens wearers and non-wearers worry about how much they use digital devices. Globally, 19% of people who use vision correction and 18% of people who do not wear correction express concern about the amount of time spent looking at screens.
This number rises to 26% globally for contact lens wearers, according to the CooperVision report. However, only 14% of contact lens wearers reported that they had spoken with an ECP regarding digital device use, even though 78% would be very or somewhat interested in exploring ways to reduce eye tiredness with their eyecare practitioners.
As ECPs, we should be looking for digital eye strain, or digital vision syndrome, as part of our patient care.
The search for this condition starts in the history. When taking a history, ask simple questions, such as how much time patients spend on digital devices each day and whether their eyes feel dry or sting when doing extended work on a digital device. Also ask how often patients get headaches and whether they get them more often when working on digital devices.
The answers to these questions can help guide your exam and further treatment. For example, convergence insufficiency and accommodative insufficiency may be at work, and the correction may be as simple as prescribing more prism. You may also need to treat the patient’s dry eye, the symptoms of which may become worse with digital eye strain.
Your patients no doubt do a lot of research online and are probably familiar with digital eye strain, so it is imperative that you talk to your patients about this subject.
EDUCATION A MUST
Patient education is a must as well. For example, the American Optometric Association recommends the following to patients:
• Follow the 20-20-20 rule, namely take a 20-second break every 20 minutes and view something 20 feet away.
• Maintain a comfortable working distance from the device by using the zoom feature to see small print and details, rather than bringing the device closer to your eyes.
• Reduce glare by adjusting device settings or using a glare filter to decrease the amount of blue light reflected from the screen.
• Turn digital devices off at least one hour before bed.
• Consider buying protective eyewear, such as blue light filter glasses to limit the blue light beaming from screen.
Many lens makers now offer lenses made for distances inside of 20 ft., what you might call an “office environment.” These lenses work well for computer and digital devices such as smartphones and tablets and as an occupational lens in the office environment.
PROGRESSIVE PRISM TECHNOLOGY
Other options have become available as well. One example is neurolens, which eyeBrain Medical launched last month at Vision Expo East. Specifically, neurolens is designed to relieve digital eye strain by reducing or eliminating eye misalignment and correcting the eyes from overcompensating during digital device use. It does so by incorporating progressive prism technology that enables practitioners to relieve binocular misalignment detected at distance, intermediate and near in a single lens.
You start with the SightSync visual testing system, which lets you determine the prism needs of the patient at all distances. SightSync creates a dynamic customized measurement of misalignment at 6 meters and 50cm, analyzing all elements of ocular fusion, including heterophoria, vergence conditioning, binocular peripheral fusion, fixation disparity, accommodative convergence response and alternating monocular central fixation.
SightSync (shown right) uses sophisticated eye-tracking technology to be 100% objective without patient or operator interaction. Measurements are calculated to 100th of a prism diopter, and testing is performed in less than three minutes by a technician. The measurements are then used to manufacture this prism lens design in either single vision or progressive addition lenses.
CONTACT LENS OPTION
For those interested in contact lenses, CooperVision introduced its Biofinity Energys contact lens design specifically for digital device users. The lens features Digital Zone Optics, which integrates multiple front-surface aspheric curves across the entire optical zone. This simulates what’s known as positive power in the center of the lens, helping reduce strain on the eyes’ ciliary muscles as individuals move their gaze on-screen to off-screen and back with less effort.
Biofinity Energys also features Aquaform Technology, which attracts and binds water throughout the lens material to retain moisture even during times of reduced blinking, which is common with device use. (For more on this lens, see “Reducing Digital Eyestrain,” July 2017.)
We all face greater competition, and our patients are presented with more and more options. Differentiating ourselves is the key and the detection, understanding of, and the reduction of the symptoms of digital vision syndrome is a great way to do it.
Lassa Frank, OD, owns Mt. Tam Optometric Center in San Anselmo, CA, and has traveled extensively around the world, giving more than 25,000 free eyecare exams to the poor.
WHERE TO FIND IT
800.341.2020 | CooperVision.com
949.339.5157 | neurolenses.com