QUINCY -- There is growing concern over difficulties tied to what has been labeled as computer vision syndrome, also referred to as digital eye strain.
The American Optometric Association (AOA) says the problem stems from prolonged computer, tablet, e-reader and cellphone use, with young people a rapidly growing area of concern.
The problems have been around for years, but with more and more people using cellphones and similar devices at younger and younger ages, the level of concern seems to be mounting.
"I'm not huge on telling young people not to (use their cellphones, etc.), because I'd be a hypocrite," Dr. Dan Hayden of SPECS (Super Performance Eye Care Services), a Quincy optometrist, who has two young children of his own with cellphones.
What Hayden does suggest, however, is moderation and common sense.
Cutting back and limiting cellphone and computer use will obviously benefit a person's vision, reducing the strain it causes on the muscles and other areas of the eyes.
Hayden says he has seen "a real shift" in the last five years regarding vision problems, especially in the young.
Ironically, those problems are not tied to watching too much TV, as may have been the case 20, 30 and 40 years ago.
"No one watches TV anymore," Hayden said. "Everyone's tied to their cellphones and (similar devices)."
The most common symptoms associated with computer vision syndrome are eyestrain, headache, blurred vision, dry eyes and neck/shoulder pain. These symptoms may be compounded by poor lighting, glare on a digital screen, improper viewing distances, poor seating posture, uncorrected vision problems or a combination of these factors.
At greatest risk for developing computer vision syndrome are those who spend two or more continuous hours at a computer or using a digital screen device every day.
The AOA reports the average American worker spends seven hours a day on the computer, either in the office or at home. More digital strain comes from the use of cellphones and similar devices.
The AOA says viewing a computer or digital screen often makes the eyes work harder. As a result, many individuals become susceptible to the development of vision-related symptoms.
Viewing a computer or digital screen is different than reading a printed page. Often the letters on the computer or hand-held device are not as precise or sharply defined, the level of contrast of the letters to the background is reduced, and the presence of glare and reflections on the screen may make viewing difficult.
Viewing distances and angles used for this type of work are also often different from those commonly used for other reading or writing tasks. As a result, the eye focusing and eye movement requirements for digital screen viewing can place additional demands on the visual system.