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Not taking care of your eyes? It can affect cognitive function

It is safe to assume that we have been spending more time than ever on our devices. 

After all, there are only so many things to occupy ourselves with at home while riding out the Covid-19 pandemic. 

So prevalent is the overuse of computer monitors and handheld devices that it has its own term – digital eye strain (DES). And if the symptoms are not taken care of, more serious issues can arise.

WARNING SIGNS

According to Dr David Goh, medical director at Novena Bladeless Cataract Surgery & Eye Specialist Centre, the symptoms of DES include difficulty focusing, eye spasm, eye pain, blurred vision, decreased visual acuity (the ability to discern shapes and details) and dryness. 

If left untreated for prolonged periods, conjunctival hyperemia can occur.

Dr Goh said: “The dryness of the eyes can result in inflammation of the ocular surface. This leads to decreased tear production, which leads to even more dryness. If no precautions are taken to break this cycle, there can be greater risk of infections and ulcers of the cornea.”

He warned that those particularly at risk are contact lens wearers, dry eye sufferers and patients with diabetes or eyelid problems. DES can also lead to progressive myopia.

Dr Claudine Pang, a retinal eye surgeon at Asia Retina, added: “With high myopia, which is when it is more than 600 degrees, the eyes are more likely to have degenerative diseases – cataracts, glaucoma, retinal tears and myopic macular degeneration – earlier in life.

“Although these conditions can be treated, prevention is always better than cure.”

NOT JUST YOUR EYES

Too much screen time impacts our overall health negatively. 

For one, light from the screens may overstimulate our brains, causing insomnia or poor quality sleep. 
Also, from hunching over the screens excessively, we are more prone to straining our neck, shoulders and back, which may result in pain and more severe musculoskeletal issues over time.

More significantly, our behaviour and cognition may be adversely altered. 

According to Dr Goh, DES can cause irritation and anxiety, and even psychological conditions such as depression.

Dr Pang said: “Some studies have found that people develop addictive behaviours to social media and, in turn, their phones. They crave the use of their devices constantly and use them to cope with, or modify, their moods. 

“They experience withdrawal symptoms when they are unable to access their phones or apps. If these behaviours progress to interfere with everyday life, it becomes a cause for concern.”

BLUE LIGHT EXPOSURE

Think you are safe from these effects because you use blue light blocking glasses or a blue light filter? 

The thing is, nobody knows with certainty how much blue light is harmful to human eyes. 

Said Dr Pang: “Animal studies have shown that blue light can cause damage to rabbit and mouse retina through various mechanisms.

“However, no human studies have been able to document retinal damage by blue light.”

As such, it would be “unscientific” to assume all blue light to be harmful. 

“We need some blue light to regulate normal circadian rhythms and prevent myopia. Blue light deprivation has also been shown to be associated with depression-like changes in the brain. As with most things in life, blue light exposure should be kept within moderate amounts.”

Should long-term exposure be necessary, additional anti-blue light measures are encouraged, but it is important to remember that the aim is not to filter out 100 per cent of blue light.

This article was first published in Her World Online (www.HerWorld.com)

health