What is Presbyopia? Are Your Digital Devices Giving It to You?1

Constantly being on a digital device is a way of life for most of us. Those smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers are all essential to how we live, work, and play.

And when we’re staring at these devices so much of our time, it will affect our vision, sooner or later.

One visual condition that typically results from natural aging—but can also be brought on by too much screen time— is called presbyopia. With this condition, it’s difficult to see up close, even though you can see far away just fine.

Other symptoms of presbyopia may be:

> Difficulty reading fine characters

> Difficulty seeing in dark places

> Eye strain

> Headache

> Stiff shoulders

> Dry eyes

Presbyopia symptoms gradually begin to appear when you’re in your 30s, and generally get worse in your mid-40s. Of course, you can temporarily mitigate the effects of presbyopia by wearing glasses or contact lenses, and through various lifestyle modifications (such as enlarging the fonts on your devices, for example).

Note: An HCP diagnosis is always required to identify presbyopia.

Presbyopia had a reputation as being strictly a disease of the elderly. Lately, however, more young people are spending so much time looking at the screens of smartphones and other digital devices, that presbyopia is showing up much earlier in life. In fact, this condition has a new name: smartphone presbyopia.

How presbyopia affects your eyes

Two parts of the eye, the "crystalline lens" and the "ciliary muscle," are particularly involved in presbyopia.

The crystalline lens acts similarly to a lens in a camera. The ciliary muscle is its focusing mechanism, and adjusts the thickness of the crystalline lens by pulling and loosening it.

When the ciliary muscle contracts, the crystalline lens becomes thicker, and nearby objects come into focus. However, as we age, the lens can become stiff and tense, and lose elasticity. As a result, the thickness of the lens will not change, even if the ciliary muscle contracts. This can cause any nearby objects to be out of focus and difficult to see.

Smartphone presbyopia can occur when you’re staring at a closely held digital device for long stretches at a time. When this happens, the focus adjustment function of the ciliary muscle isn’t used, and the crystalline lens doesn’t move, so the elasticity of the lens is gradually lost. The ciliary muscles will remain shrunk and will not loosen, and the lens will remain thick and unable to thin.

How to deal with presbyopia

Presbyopia caused by aging cannot be prevented. However, most smartphone presbyopia in younger people recovers. Symptoms can be eased using the "eye stretch," and with eye drops, like Rohto® Digi Eye,® that relieve the symptoms of eye fatigue. But if you’re a young person and you think you have presbyopia symptoms, please see an ophthalmologist. Presbyopia symptoms always require diagnosis and treatment from a healthcare professional. Rohto® Digi Eye® does not treat this condition.

Here are a few measures that may help delay the onset of presbyopia symptoms:

1. Exercise your eyes with eye stretches

It’s not good for the eyes to keep focusing on close objects for a long time. Exercises that focus on longer distances can be beneficial.

To perform eye stretches, move the line of sight to a distance (the distance where the focus is barely in focus) about once every 10 minutes, and then return it to the original state when it is in focus.

By consciously moving your focus, you move both the ciliary muscle and crystalline lens. The blood vessels in the ciliary muscle also expand and contract, which improves blood circulation and makes it harder for you to get tired.

It’s also helpful to look up at your ceiling from time to time, instead of horizontally.

These exercises are effective for both age-induced presbyopia and for smartphone presbyopia. And they can be performed even while wearing glasses and contact lenses.

2. Use eye drops that are effective in relieving eye strain

Eye drops specially formulated to relieve symptoms of digital eye strain, such as Rohto® Digi Eye®, can soothe the redness, dryness, and irritation of presbyopia.

3. Eat foods rich in astaxanthin and lutein

Astaxanthin and lutein remove active oxygen and free radicals, and help relieve eye strain. Lutein is found in spinach, broccoli, pumpkin, and carrots, while astaxanthin is found in the red coloring of salmon, salmon roe, shrimp, and crab. If it’s difficult for you to get these foods in your diet, ask your health care provider if supplements are right for you.

4. Do some light exercise before going to bed

Sleep is closely related to the autonomic nerves (sympathetic nerves and parasympathetic nerves). The sympathetic nerves dominate when you’re awake or tense, and the parasympathetic nerves dominate when you’re sleeping or relaxing.

When you switch from the sympathetic nerves to the parasympathetic nerves, you sleep better. However, when you’re looking at a smartphone or other digital device, the sympathetic nerves are dominant, making it more difficult to sleep and impairing sleep quality.

If you look at your smartphone before going to bed, do some light exercises, such as stretching, to give your sympathetic nerves an edge so you can sleep better.

This information is for educational purposes only. Always seek a health care professional for any bodily injury, trauma, sign, or symptom that is affecting your health.