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A New Perspective: How digital devices affect our eyes

With all the technology we expose ourselves too each day, how are our eyes responding to it? Doctors say more and more people are coming in with eye problems -- especially younger patients.

With all the technology we expose ourselves too each day, how are our eyes responding to it?

Doctors say more and more people are coming in with eye problems -- especially younger patients.

Whether it be a computer, gaming system, or our cell phones - doctors say high use of technology is causing certain eye conditions in children they haven't seen in the past.

"I had never been before," said Jane Hursey, 19-year-old Grand Valley State University Student. "You know eye exams and physicals throughout my high school year but never been to an actual eye doctor before."

Until this May, after Jane started noticing a change in her eye sight in the second semester of college.

"When I was in especially big lecture halls, when I was sitting back farther from the projector screen and looking down and taking notes and looking back up again pretty quickly- I noticed that it was harder for me to focus on the far away."

Jane's not the only one. Her optometrist says a lot of college students deal with the same issue.

"Again with complaints of not being able to see in a large lecture hall- which would normally imply that they're having nearsightedness problems," said Dr. Edward Scarbrough, Scarbrough Family Eye Care. "Then when I test the eyes we find out they are in fact not nearsighted. They're actually just over focusing on their up close so much that it creates a distance vision complaint."

So how does an eye complaint like this form?

"The main problem is they're holding their devices so close to their face it requires the eye muscles to focus near," said Scarbrough.

Scarbrough says eye muscles are designed to focus near for short periods of time, not long.

So what happens when we do spend too much up close and personal time with our devices?

"Those muscles instead of focusing in and out they get sort of cramped up," said Scarbrough. "They lock up at their near point and then when this person goes to look at a distance, the vision is blurred at a distance."

And it's not just the college students, Scarbrough says he's seeing it in kids as young as 10 years old.

"Parents typically are almost a little bit embarrassed that their young child would be on devices long enough in a day that it would actually create vision problems and you know, I just try to reassure them that it's just the culture we live in today," said Scarbrough. " Children are being introduced to technology at earlier and earlier ages. Schools giving out iPads and tablets in elementary schools. Kids getting cell phones and smart phones-preteen."

Luckily - a pair of glasses will help correct this issue.

However, even if you don't have blurry vision, doctors say there is another point of concern with digital devices no matter what the age - high energy blue light.

"This high energy blue light is very closely related to ultraviolet light which we know is damaging to the eye that could potentially cause macular degeneration and cataract development," said Scarbrough. "We don't really know for sure what this effect is going to be but exposing our eyes to high energy blue light for extended periods of time could potentially be damaging. So we're looking at ways of filtering that out."

Scarbrough says high energy blue light is common in back lit screens and some of our new lighting - like LED and fluorescent.

He says there are now filters you can put on your lenses to help reduce some of that.

If you do need to spend a lot of time on your digital devices, Scarbrough says applying the 20/20/20 rule can help.

The rule says every 20 minutes you should change your focus to an object 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.

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