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Can Playing Video Games Damage Your Eyes?

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Can Playing Video Games Damage Your Eyes?

The video gaming industry started in the 1980s and has since hit the masses, with Canada becoming the third-largest globally. Video gaming isn’t just for the younger generation. In 2020 alone, the 61% of Canadians who play have an average age of 34. 

There is no doubt that playing video games is enjoyable and addictive. The benefits of playing video games are many, as they help build confidence and improve strategic thinking skills. It also improves reaction time and hand-eye coordination. 

With the positives come the negatives. As a result of the growing popularity of gaming, there have been concerns over whether playing video games can cause eye damage. The answer is yes. We explore this topic in more detail and outline how playing video games cause damage to your eyes and what you can do to protect them

Computer Vision Syndrome

Computer vision syndrome (CVS) or digital eye strain is a set of eye and vision problems experienced by people when using digital devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers. These devices emit blue light that affects the retina at the back of your eye. Blue light may also contribute to cataracts in the lens inside your eye.

Between 50–90% of people experience at least some computer vision syndrome symptoms such as eye strain, dry eyes, headaches and difficulty focusing on images or text. Spending 2 or more hours in a row also makes it more likely to develop these symptoms. 

Children and adults with existing eye problems are more prone to get CVS. However, even children with excellent vision can experience these symptoms when playing video games.  

A young boy playing a video game on a tablet

Signs of Eye Strain From Playing Video Games

Adult and kids’ eyes can strain from using all digital devices. Playing video games for extended lengths can damage your eyes and present with the following symptoms:

  • Dry eyes: it’s common to blink less when looking at a screen or playing video games. Infrequent blinking affects tear production and leads to dry eyes. Our eyes, on average, blink 12 times per minute compared to only 5 times per minute when in front of a computer. 
  • Blurred vision: compared to words on a paper that are more defined, the pixels on a screen make it harder for the eyes to focus and can cause blurred vision or double vision
  • Eye fatigue: looking at a screen when playing video games causes the eyes to lock in focus resulting in tired eyes. 
  • Eye strain: soreness or irritation from spending a prolonged time focusing on one thing. 

Other symptoms not related to the eye caused by computer vision syndrome include headaches, neck pain, shoulder disorders, and dizziness. To combat these symptoms, ensure the chair height allows both feet to rest firmly on the floor. 

How to Protect Your Eyes When Video Gaming

A recent study shows while the symptoms are usually temporary with prolonged video gaming, accumulation may lead to irreversible visual disturbances. Parents of kids who play video games are encouraged to schedule regular children’s eye examinations to screen for any problems early. 

Minimizing ocular fatigue and preventing long-term harm to your vision requires taking the following measures: 

  1. Follow the 20–20–20 rule: Take a break every 20 minutes, and focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. You can also close your eyes for 20 seconds to relax the eye muscles.
  2. Instead of video gaming marathons, play shorter sessions so the eyes can rest. Blue-light blocking lenses are a great addition to help reduce the amount of light entering the eyes without affecting visibility. 
  3. Lowering the brightness on your screen reduces glare and straining your eyes. Using glasses with an anti-reflective coating helps. 
  4. Remove bright lights behind you as these reflect off the screen and cause glare.
  5. Maintain a distance of at least 20 inches or 51 cm between your face and the screen.
  6. Frequent blinking creates tears, improving eye comfort and preventing dry eyes and eye strain. Artificial tears reduce dry eye symptoms by providing lubrication. 
  7. Avoid playing video games in a dark room. 
  8. Ensure the computer screen is free of dust as this affects visual clarity. 

One of the most important things we can do is get outside, and especially important to prevent the progression of myopia. In some Asian countries, as part of the school day, children MUST spend time outdoors to reduce the risk of myopia and its accompanying high risk of eye disease. 

Moderation Is Key

Playing video games for extended periods without taking breaks can lead to many symptoms related to computer vision syndrome. It’s also true that video gaming can improve motor skills and reaction time. 

The compromise is to know when to stop, take breaks, and proactively take measures to protect your eye health, including visiting your eye doctor. Vivid Eye Care is committed to providing you and your family with professional advice on anything related to improving the health of your eyes.

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  • Calgary, AB T3M 0S9

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