Something to think about

Can Video Games Damage Your Eyes?

In this modern and technology-centric generation, computer screens and consoles force our eyes to overcome different challenges that bring new hazards to our eyesight. Prolonged video gaming sessions and too much use of digital devices like computers and tablets can lead to eye strain, dry eyes, headaches, and fatigue in your neck and shoulders.

I’m sure we’ve all heard from our parents not to sit too close to the TV when we were younger. And we’ve all heard that screens make our vision worse. Looking at a screen or playing video games won’t permanently damage your eyes but it can worsen already present eye conditions and cause eyestrain.

Unlike watching a movie or scrolling through social media, video games require you to be glued on the screen because of your direct contact with the outcome of the game. When absorbed in a video game, we tend to blink much less frequently and this can affect the flow of tears, which can result in dryness and irritation for the eyes, blurred vision and even headaches.

How to Minimize the Risk?

Proper Lighting

Whether you’re playing the greatest sci-fi shooter or an adventure game, lighting is very important when it comes to video games since you can’t see what’s on the screen properly if it’s too dark or bright.

The same thing applies to room lighting because the contrast between the screen light and the room around you will force your eyes to adjust to the new lighting whenever you look away. The glare from windows or other light sources can strain your eyes to focus harder than necessary on the screen in front of you.

To help prevent video game eye strain, make sure you have proper room and device lighting to reduce glare and take frequent breaks to rest your eyes. Proper room lighting can also prevent from epileptic seizures during gaming. I wrote an article about epilepsy and video games in this article.

Practice the 20-20-20 Rule

Basically, this rule implies that for every 20 minutes spent in front of a gaming console or computer screen, you should shift your focus at something that is 20 feet away from you for 20 seconds. You can follow this rule to improve your viewing habits and reduce vision damage from video games and other electronic devices.

You can also simply close your eyes for 20 seconds every 20 minutes to relax your eye muscles, instead of shifting your focus on an object that is 20 feet away from you.

Maintain Appropriate Distance

The advisable distance in the case of console games, such as Gamecube, Wii, PlayStation, or Xbox is at least 6 feet. If you’re playing games on a computer or laptop, make sure that the top of the monitor (not screen) is at your eye level or a couple of inches below.

This means that you should never have to lean forward or tilt your head just to keep up with the game. Besides eye strain, this can cause neck and back pain.

Also, just like any other part of your body, too much strenuous activity can cause fatigue to your eyesight so moderation is the key to keeping your eyes healthy, especially if you’re into video games.

Where should I put my monitor?

You shouldn’t put your monitor right in front of a window. The best way to set up your monitor is at a 90 degree angle to any window. If you can’t, use window blinds/shades to minimize any glare.

The monitor should be approximately an arms-length away from you. If it’s any further, you might unconsciously lean forward, if it’s too close, you might be straining your eyes more. You should be able to see the entire screen without moving your head or straining your eyes.

What about dual/triple/quadruple monitor setup?

If you have dual monitor setup, bear in mind which monitor you use the most. If you use both of them the same amount, you need to treat them as one big monitor and make adjustments.

If you use one more than the other, focus more on the correct positioning of that one. Your secondary monitor should follow the same rules, just at an angle

Proper Blinking

Blinking is something we often take for granted, but consciously blinking more regularly actually helps with dry eyes. Dry eyes can feel itchy or even painful.

Frequent blinking can help improve eye comfort and ease the strain on your vision when you are “in the zone” of the concentration process.

The eyelids and tears help protect the eye while at the same time allow clear access to light rays entering the eye. The oil and mucus mixed with the watery portion of the tears also create a protective tear film to prevent small particles to enter our eyes.

Eye Exercises

We all know how important it is to keep our bodies fit by staying active and improve muscle strength. Just like physical activities, eye exercises can also be helpful for people who experience digital eye strain because of the prolonged use of computer and game consoles.

Many people have promoted eye exercises as a natural way to cure vision problems. Bear in mind these exercises won’t improve your vision but will definitely help with eye comfort. Exercises like focus change to improve your focus, and figure eight to strengthen eye muscles and stimulate the vision center of your brain.

Focus change

When seated, put your index finger in front of your face. Focus on it and slowly move it away from you. Look into the distance for a brief moment then shift your focus back to your finger. Slowly move it back to your face, then look away. Repeat this exercise three times.

Figure Eight

Look at a spot about 10 feet away from you. Move your eyes as if you’re tracking the number eight. Repeat three times and then change directions.

Blue-Light Blocking Glasses

Not only does blue-light damage our eyesight, but it also affects our sleep rhythms. There are anti-reflective and blue-light blocking glasses that you can buy to help prevent the light glare from screens from damaging your eyes. The blue-light filter technology in these glasses will enable you to play video games before bed and still get a good night’s sleep.

But please be aware that it’s still best to visit your opthalmologist for a proper prescription and a thorough assessment of your eye health.

Conclusion

Video games do not permanently damage your eyes. However, they can cause eye strain which can lead to blurry vision, headache, dry or watery eyes.

Please go see your eye doctor if you observe any unusual changes in your vision. Regular eye check ups should be done every one or two years, depending on your age and already present eye problem.


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