The average American spends 10 hours and 39 minutes a day looking at a screen. This includes mobile phones, television, computer screens, and tablets. As an avid gamer I am not surprised. Think about all the time you spend on a daily basis checking your phone, playing your Nintendo Switch, or gaming on the PC. As gamers we spend a good chunk of our time staring at a screen, and so we were curious if this was causing damage to our precious eyes. Does playing video games hurt your eyes? Here’s what we found out.
Playing Video Games Can Hurt Your Eyes
Extended amounts of time playing video games (or looking at any screen) can lead to a condition called digital eye strain. I have heard hardcore gamers call it “video game eye strain” and it’s an issue that about 50 percent of people who work (or game) in front of a screen experience. The symptoms of the eye strain can include drys eye, eye fatigue, irritated eyes, itchiness, red eyes, and headaches.
I have experienced digital eye strain myself. When I was younger I could game for hours without any of these symptoms, but now as an older man find that prolonged gaming sessions will make my eyes bloodshot and fatigued. My eyes could be bloodshot for up to two days. Knowing that my gaming was having a negative impact of my eyes led me to ask the question below…
What causes video game eye strain?
Digital eye strain can occur for multiple reasons. One is that digital screens emit “blue light” which has a wavelength of 380 nm to 500 nm. What does this mean? Blue light is one of the shortest, high energy wavelengths that human eyes can perceive. The blue light goes into the eyes and creates a glaring effect. This “glaring effect” doesn’t make your eyes happy, and prolonged exposure to blue light is one of the reasons why you may be suffering from video game eye strain.
Another reason why you may be having eye issues is because you’re not blinking enough. The average person blinks about 18 times per minute throughout their day. Now think about how often you’re blinking while trying to be hyper focused on your video game? Studies show that staring at a screen reduces our blinking rate. Which makes complete sense. Think of all the times you were in the middle of an intense moment during a gaming session. The enemy is approaching or you’ve got to perform a maneuver just perfectly, and you need to keep your eyes open. A single blink could ruin everything, and so you find yourself staring unblinkingly at the screen for extended periods of time. The result of blinking less? Dry, itchy, and possibly burning eyes.
Lastly digital eye strain can be the result of screen glare and low screen contrast. If your screen has glare or low contrast it can make your eyes work harder to focus. The harder your eyes work to focus the more likely you may suffer eye strain.
How can I alleviate (and prevent) video game eye strain?
The good news is that eye care professionals are able to treat the symptoms of eye strain, and personally taking specific measures at home can help relieve eye strain. As of right now there are is inconclusive evidence on whether playing video games can cause longterm damage to your eyes. Some researches argue that the blue light does long term damage to tissues in your eyes while others argue against this. Regardless, we know that you want to continue to play video games, but we also know that you want to take care of your eyes. Here are a few guidelines to prevent and alleviate eye strain.
1. Take Breaks for Your Eyes to Rest
Even if you’re planning on a long streaming session or a weekend of gaming hard – make sure to take frequent breaks for your eyes to rest. Hours and hours of gaming only looking at a screen are not going to help your eyes. Our recommendation is to look away from the screen every twenty minutes or so to let your eyes focus on something other than a digital screen. Additionally you should step away from the screen for a few minutes every hour.
2. Eliminate Screen Glare
There’s certain times of day when the sun shines through the windows to create a glare on my television screen. The strong glare would bug the hell out of me, but most of the times I wouldn’t do anything and just play with the glare there. After reading up on the causes of digital eye strain I realized that it wasn’t healthy or wise for me to be playing with a screen glare. Take whatever measures you need to take to reduce and eliminate screen glare on your screens. Get curtains, rearrange your lighting, and do what it takes to eliminate screen glare.
3. Keep an Appropriate Viewing Distance from the Screen
Getting close enough to the screen so that your nose can touch it is not good for your eyes. The proper distance is at least an arm’s distance away from the screen. Make sure you have the proper posture while you game to keep those eyeballs healthy!
4. Get a Pair of Gaming Glasses
There is a debate over whether gaming glasses are helpful at reducing video game eye strain. The point of the glasses is to reduce the amount of blue light (as we talked about earlier) that go into your eyes while looking at a screen. Some people swear by them while others say they’re a marketing gimmick. Personally I have friends who are gamers (and videographers) who find them to be helpful. You can read about gaming glasses here and come to your own conclusion.
Keep Gaming and Stay Healthy!
Finally – we’re not an optometrist. We here at Hey You Video Game are gamers who are curious, and we did our best to research and find studies to back everything we have said here. If you’re suffering from any type of eye issues we would recommend going to a trained professional to get help. The worse thing you could do is push through it hoping that it will magically get better. Many injuries only get worse if not treated properly.
We love to game, and we know that you do too. If you want to keep your gaming abilities at peak performance for a lifetime make sure to take the right measures to keep your eyes healthy and safe. Does Playing Video Games Hurt Your Eyes? We argue yes, but only if you’re not taking the right precautions to protect your eyes. Follow our safety guidelines and your eyes will thank you!
We hope that this article was helpful to you, and if you’re interested in other topics related to gaming and health you can see a list of related posts at our Gaming and Health Series.