By Heidi (Guest Writer) –
How long would you say you look at computer screens per day? How about the TV? Your phone? Did you know that artificial blue light can damage your eyes with long exposures?
Living with a chronic illness can be very isolating and many of us reconnect with the outside world through the internet and social media. Can you imagine being in a major flare without Netflix, a Kindle, or your phone for a distraction?
Before being diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS, I never had as much screen time. Most of my time was spent reading tangible books, volunteering with local fire departments, or studying with my friends. I loved cooking, working at clinics, and most of all, dancing. After all, how can you be a true southerner without some east coast swing?
But now I have had to trade some of those activities for more energy-conserving ones like reading manga, taking online classes, and writing for my chronic illness life hacks blog, Chronically Salty.
I went from maybe an hour or two of sustained screen time per day to hours upon hours and eventually, my eyes felt so strained, I could barely read without eye pain and other symptoms. It’s no wonder exposure to bright screens can worsen headaches and migraines.
The eye strain became so bad for me, it actually made my POTS worse. While POTS is usually seen as a syndrome that typically affects you only when standing, there are a lot of factors that can exacerbate symptoms.
Exposure to very stimulating environments such as loud bars, concerts, movie theaters, and even grocery stores flare up my POTS easily. Straining my eyes with harsh light for hours every day is now another unforeseen trigger. As with any adrenaline-producing activity, I have found tips and tricks to dampen these effects.
Blue light disrupts the sleep-wake cycle, so downloading a free program like F.lux will change the blue light on your computer screen to match your sleep cycle. You can also use it on Android phones, but you have to manually change to night time mode in the settings on iPhones.
In addition to F.lux, I bought a blue light screen protector for my computer. It changes the direction of blue light rays so that they don’t strain your eyes as much. I also ordered a pair of blue light non-prescription glasses from Zenni Optical for $30.
Together, these few adjustments have helped my eyes feel a lot less strained and I can continue my passion for writing without eye pain!
Everyone who works long hours exposed to blue light, whether having chronic illness or not, should take at least some eye precautions, and people with chronic illness should go the extra mile.
So if you feel extra tired or strained after screen-time, try stepping back and evaluating your screen time. Take a break, lower the brightness on your screens, and add in a form of blue light protection!