Staring At A Computer All Day (Or Night) Totally Does Affect Your Eyes

Illustration for article titled Staring At A Computer All Day (Or Night) Totally emDoes/em Affect Your Eyes

Do you spend more than seven hours a day parked in front of a computer monitor? Results from a newly published study suggest you could be stripping your "tear film" of a component that helps keep your eyes clean, lubricated and healthy.

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Photo Credit: Carlos Martz via flickr | CC BY 2.0

Tears lubricate the eyes and keep them clean. A layer of mucus, called a "tear film," is healthy and necessary for good vision. Contained in that tear film is a protein called MUC5AC. In a study led by Keio University ophthalmologist Yuichi Uchino, researchers found that people who spend more than seven hours a day staring at computer screens have MUC5AC concentrations nearing those of people diagnosed with dry eye disease, a condition in which a patient's tears are unable to supply adequate moisture to the eyes.

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The Independent's Heather Saul summarizes the team's findings, which appear in the latest issue of JAMA Ophthalmology:

The team found participants who worked with computer screens for more than seven hours each day had an average of 5.9 ng/mg of MUC5AC, compared to 9.6 ng/mg for people who spent fewer than five hours daily with screens.

In comparison, people with definite dry eye disease had an average of 3.5 ng/mg of MUC5AC compared to 8.2 ng/mg for people without the disease.

According to Uchino, we tend to open our eyes wider, and blink less frequently, while staring at screens than we do performing other tasks.

How can you keep your eyes healthy? Doctors recommend keeping a humidifier in your work space, and avoiding direct blasts from air conditioners.

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Read the full study over at JAMA Ophthalmology. Better yet: Download the PDF, print it out, and read it over a sink of hot water.

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DISCUSSION

I wonder if content has anything to do with it. I've sat in front of a PC screen virtually every waking hour for the past 10 years up until a couple months ago when I finally got a job (yeah, it took 10 years of filling countless apps/resumes for me to find a damn job).

I write code using a dark theme that looks like:

I ported that theme to every code editor I use. The pic is my own shader IDE. I also use Visual Studio 2008 and 2012, Notepad++, CodeLite and MonoDevelop. I also have a 40 line regex that can colorize any text file to rich text with same coloring rules. Very picky about only working with lots of text on a dark background so that my eyes can relax.

I'm also meticulous about keeping my monitor calibrated. I bet that has a lot to do with it as well, big difference between a calibrated and uncalibrated display.