blog Technology and the Eye

By James Merritt - 12 Jul 2017


Like a lot of us these days, technology is in our face every day. By that, I mean quite literally. Whether you're on the laptop, tablet, desktop or your smartphone we are constantly using technology. It’s part of our everyday routine of life. What impact does this have on the eyes, if at all? As an optometrist, having worked in a city practice, I have examined many young 20 something-year-old eyes. The most common complaints have been eye strain, tired eyes, dry eyes.


The eye has six muscles around it. These muscles allow the eyes to move in different directions. Up, down, left, right and diagonal. There are also tiny muscles in the eye itself, that work hard when we focus at near range.

The human eye is not really made for focusing at one distance for 8hrs a day. This will naturally make some of the muscles in the eye tired.

Imagine standing on one leg for a day. It will be quite tiring for most of us. The same principle applies to the eye muscles focusing at one distance all day. This tiredness can cause eye strain. Naturally once, away from the computer, the eye muscles can usually recover.


If you hold your smartphone, tablet or sit too close to your computer screen, this can cause muscle strain for longer.

This can result in a computer prescription. Try holding your phone further away and sit further away from the computer screen.


The strain also can be due to dry eyes.

The tears in our eyes are made up three layers. Mucin, (a thin jelly like layer), aqueous, (a watery layer) and a lipid layer. These three layers combined protect the eye. The mucin layer mainly comes from the thin transparent conjunctival layer, which partly sits on the white of the eye. This smooth mucin layer allows for even distribution of the aqueous layer on top. This aqueous layer comes mainly from the lacrimal gland, which is a bit like a water tap on the side of the eye that releases a watery layer. The lipid layer mainly derives from underneath the eyelids. This layer helps to stabilise the tear film and helps prevent the evaporation of the aqueous watery layer.

20:20:20 rule

Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for around 20 seconds. This gives the eye muscles a break from looking at one distance constantly and gives the muscles a chance to have a stretch. The tear film can rebalance as the eye is not focusing at one distance. This will be helped further by simply blinking more. (Remember the wipers in the car.)

Maybe technology isn’t foe after all. Maybe it’s all about a healthy balance? Too much of anything is not always a good thing, right?


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