This is a sponsored post by Essilor of America, a supporter of NewGradOptometry & new graduate optometrists! 😎
As a practice with a lot of millennial patients, I can tell you that one of the most common complaints I hear on daily basis is eye fatigue and asthenopia.
As technology advances, the demands we place on our visual system and the external factors we expose our eyes to have changed drastically.
Most millennial patients have grown up with this technology and have immersed themselves in it. In general, that means many patients have extensive exposure to challenging visual environments which consist of prolonged near work, usually on multiple digital devices or screens, and typically find themselves suffering from and complaining about Digital Eye Strain.
What is Digital Eye Strain?
Digital Eye Strain describes a group of eye and vision-related problems resulting from prolonged computer, cell phone, or other digital device use. Many people may experience eye discomfort or visual complications when viewing digital screens for extended periods, and these problems increase the more time a person spends staring at a screen.
Common symptoms associated with Digital Eye Strain include:
- eye strain
- blurred vision
- dry eyes
- neck and shoulder pain
What Causes Digital Eye Strain?
When using computers or any digital device for near-work activities, the eyes have to work harder to maintain focus and clarity of vision (accommodation and convergence).
Like other muscles in the body, the eyes can also suffer from fatigue. This fatigue can cause the eyes to become susceptible to the development of the symptoms associated with Digital Eye Strain.
Who Suffers From Digital Eye Strain?
Anyone can suffer from Digital Eye Strain. As you know, you can have “perfect vision,” or be emmetropic, and still suffer from symptoms of eye strain and fatigue. People who spend two or more continuous hours at a computer or using a digital screen device every day1 are at the greatest risk for developing Digital Eye Strain.
How Is Digital Eye Strain Managed?
Treatment and management of Digital Eye Strain varies. Changes in font size, posture, lighting, computer viewing angle, or simply taking more frequent breaks when performing near viewing tasks are frequently recommended. Often, though, this is not enough.
Eyeglasses are a very effective and commonly utilized method to manage and alleviate symptoms of Digital Eye Strain. However, it can be hard for people who don’t need eyeglasses for any other reason to depend on a single vision computer prescription.
While this form of spectacle correction works, many patients in this demographic are working in complex environments that include multiple viewing distances across several different devices. For them, a single vision lens cannot provide optimal vision across all of these distances.
There are also patients who already wear eyeglasses for visual correction. For these patients, their conventional corrective lenses might not be enough to provide relief from Digital Eye Strain, creating an inconvenient situation where they need to use multiple pairs of glasses.
Watch this video to learn more about Eyezen+ Lenses:
What are Eyezen+ Lenses?
Eyezen+ lenses were specially developed to provide relief from digital eye strain that commonly afflicts the modern digital device user. These lenses provide a more comfortable visual experience by containing a small amount of accommodative relief to help mitigate eye strain associated with viewing devices such as tablets and smartphones for extended periods of time.
These lenses also include protection against harmful blue light* embedded directly in the lenses. This allows for a clear lens that reduces at least 20% of Harmful Blue Light.
Understanding the Science and Technology Behind Eyezen+ Lenses
Harmful Blue Light
There has been a lot of research into Harmful Blue Light exposure and its implications as a potential contributor to retinal disease, lenticular changes and ocular surface disorders.
What is Blue Light?
Blue light is part of the visible light spectrum and comes from a multitude of sources including the sun, fluorescent lighting, and digital screens.
Visible light is extremely complex and consists of different wavelengths of light which contain different amounts of energy. Sunlight contains red, orange, yellow, green and blue light rays and various shades of each of these colors which together create what we call “white light” or sunlight. Sunlight also contains invisible light rays, or ultraviolet rays, whose effects on the body, skin, and eyes have been studied and documented.
Rays on the red end of the light spectrum have long wavelengths and less energy.
Blue light rays, which are on the opposite end of the visible light spectrum, have short wavelengths and high energy and are referred to as blue-violet or violet light. Just beyond the blue light spectrum rests ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
Blue light generally is defined as visible light ranging from 380 to 500 nm.
Dangers of Blue Light
Sunlight is the main source of blue light, but there are many indoor sources of blue light as well such as: fluorescent and LED light, televisions, computer displays, tablets, smartphones and other digital devices.
While the amount of blue light emitted by electronic devices is minuscule compared to that of the sun, As people become more dependent and immersed in technology, especially at such a young age, there is concern that this added exposure to blue light might have potential consequences to ocular health in the future.
The eye is not very good at blocking blue light. Interestingly, the eye does a much better job at blocking ultraviolet light from reaching the retina than blue light.
Emerging research has shown a possible link between blue light exposure and the risk of age-related macular degeneration.  While research hasn’t yet shown just how much blue light exposure is considered damaging, just like other cumulative effects that compound over time, concern exists for blue light exposure as well.
 Dillon, James, et al., Transmission of light to the aging human retina: possible implications for age related macular degeneration, Experimental Eye Research Volume 79, Issue 6, December 2004, Pages 753-75. doi:10.1016/j.exer.2004.06.025
A study in 2006 called “Age-related maculopathy and the impact of blue light hazard” showed us that blue light is considered 50 to 80 times more efficient in manifesting retinal photoreceptor death than green light.2
Essilor and the Paris Vision Institute did a study that exposed porcine retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells to distinct ranges of light, reproducing the physiological exposure to sunlight of the 40-year-old eye. The study found that blue-violet light (415nm – 455nm) had the highest phototoxic effect on the cells. Further research demonstrated retinal cell death rate decreased by 25% when there was a 20% cut out of blue-violet light.3
Not all blue light is bad, which is why blocking all blue light isn’t the best solution. Blue-turquoise light at 480 nm (±15 nm) is known to help regulate our body’s sleep cycle, and studies have shown that some blue light exposure is essential in memory and cognitive function and boosts alertness.
Eyezen+ lenses filter at least 20% of Harmful Blue Light, while allowing the good blue-turquoise light rays through. This is another benefit of these lenses not only for the millennial patient, but for any patient who uses digital devices extensively.
I think it is important for the eyecare practitioner to keep abreast of studies on blue light and understand potential implications of it. It is a topic that frequently surfaces in the exam room with patients, particularly those with young children growing up with technology.
This is a topic that is gaining traction and awareness within the tech community as well, and many devices, such as those with Apple iOS, now have blue light filters that can be activated at certain times of day.
Accommodation and Near Point Stress
The effect that sustained near work on digital devices and computers has on eyes is very similar to general muscle fatigue experienced during a workout or marathon running. The more time a person spends working on computers and performing near work, the harder the eyes are working, which can induce tired, irritated eyes, headaches, neck pain, and general fatigue.
I explain to patients that Eyezen+ lenses are specially designed and enhanced to keep the eyes comfortable and help reduce eyestrain.*
*For Eyezen+ designs 1, 2 and 3 containing accommodative relief
- Eyezen+ 0 – patients age 17 and under (0.0 D)
- Eyezen+ 1 – patients age 18 to 34 (0.40 D)
- Eyezen+ 2 – patients age 35 to 44 (0.60 D)
- Eyezen+ 3 – patients age 45 to 50 (0.85 D)
** It is recommended Eyecare Professionals consider progressive lenses for their patients age 45+.
How Eyezen+ Lenses Can Benefit Your Practice
If you want to be a practice that consistently offers the latest technology to your patients, you should consider prescribing Eyezen+ enhanced single vision lenses. Eyezen+ lenses are exclusive to the independent ECP, which is a major benefit towards practice building and is another way that Essilor supports independent ECPs.
Eyezen+ lenses have been very successful in my practice, particularly with my millennial demographic. Having a single vision solution has also opened up countless discussions about blue light exposure and Digital Eye Strain.
I tell my millennial patients every day that since we do not know the full extent of the effect of digital devices on our eyes, we must protect our vision as research continues into long-term outcomes.
In addition, Harmful Blue Light has been getting more exposure and coverage in the tech world, which has helped facilitate discussions in the exam room.
I utilize a prescribing strategy to determine who might benefit from Eyezen+ lenses. If a patient reports symptoms or I solicit clues based on questioning consistent with Digital Eye Strain, I inherently begin to think about Eyezen+ lenses as an appropriate ophthalmic lens.
In my practice, I have found these particular patients to benefit greatly from Eyezen+ lenses:
- Children who spend time on electronic devices such as iPads / iPhones
- Programmers or IT professionals
- Web designers
- Sales reps
- Those with jobs requiring computer use greater than four hours per day
- College students
- Patients who have a family history of or are predisposed to retinal diseases such as age-related macular degeneration
I got into the habit of asking my patients about screen time. If a patient spends ample time on digital devices, I consider having a discussion with them about screen use, blue light exposure, and ongoing research in the area. You’ll find that patients appreciate the information and love hearing about new technology.
Managed care providers are also covering Eyezen+ lenses. Eyezen+ lenses are available to patients on VSP, EyeMed, Humana, and VBA, an attractive benefit for patients on those plans.
*Arnault E, Barrau C, Nanteau C, Gondouin P, Bigot K, et al. (2013). Phototoxic Action Spectrum on a Retinal Pigment Epithelium Model of Age-Related Macular Degeneration Exposed to Sunlight Normalized Conditions. PLoS ONE 8(8): e71398. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.
- Age-related maculopathy and the impact of blue light hazard. Acta Ophthalmol Scand. 2006 Feb;84(1):4-15. Algvere PV1, Marshall J, Seregard S. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16445433
- Dillon, James, et al., Transmission of light to the aging human retina: possible implications for age related macular degeneration, Experimental Eye Research Volume 79, Issue 6, December 2004, Pages 753-75. doi:10.1016/j.exer.2004.06.025
- Smick K, Villete T, Boulton ME, et al. Essilor of America. Blue light hazard: New knowledge, new approaches to maintaining ocular health. www.crizalusa.com/content/dam/crizal/us/en/pdf/blue-light/Blue-Light-Roundtable_White-Paper.pdf. 2013. Accessed March 18, 2016.