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Eye care

Are tablets and e-books harmful to the eye?

The new devices for digital reading have screens which use electronic ink (e-ink), which does not emit light, so they are softer on the eye, in order to promote their being ”easy on the eyes for reading” and ”similar in appearance and experience of reading a conventional book.”

Medical studies reveal that reading current e-books is not in itself harmful to one’s vision, but without question one must definitely know how to use them properly to prevent eyestrain and promote visual health.

We suggest the following basic tips for healthy use of new digital media:

  • Avoid use coinciding with eyestrain or fatigue
    Rest your eyes every so often. A break of five minutes for each hour of reading is enough. Do not, however, use these electronic devices when you are too tired. To preserve your visual health, it is important that your eyes not be subjected to overwork.
  • Avoid reflections of light on the screen
    Read under adequate lighting.  E-books offer electronic ink displays do not emit light. However, there are models that can be backlit, such as the iPad, and have an active light-emitting background, as do laptops, desktop computer screens, or television sets. The use of these systems in addition to the daily use we make of other electronic devices increases the risks to our vision. Lateral, or side, illumination is best when reading. Avoid screen reflections. Too much light emission from the screen can also be harmful. Adjust the brightness and contrast of the display, depending on the illumination of the work area. Increase the speed of screen refresh if possible: 70-75 Hz is a good measure.
  • Use them at a suitable distance
    Keep your tablet or e-book about 35-40 centimeters (10 to 12 inches) away and slightly below eye level. Where possible, adjust the font size so as to avoid squinting or excessive screen proximity when reading otherwise difficult text.
  • Avoid dry eye using simple blinking as necessary.
    Blinking is a vital and necessary function. Under concentration, we usually blink less than normal. Without realizing it, we may be forcing our eyesight, especially when we view 'content-rich' material (including video, photos, interactive gifs, etc.) that capture our attention very intensely.
  • Take eye relaxation breaks.
    To rest your eyes, switch the view between a near and far objects.  It is advisable to take breaks of five minutes per each hour of reading, looking away from the screen and focusing on distant objects to relax the eye muscles.
  • Manage overall exposure intelligently.
    Plasma screens have a higher contrast quality, realism in the colors and better angular viewing.  In these cases, the ideal is to alternate such media with proper exposure time. It is not the same to watch TV after a long day on the computer, as it is when we come home after spending a relaxing day in the park.
  • Check your eyesight annually.
    Be sure to undergo an annual vision checkup.  An annual eye exam, carried out under the care of a professional in vision care, will indicate if the person in question is ready to safely be exposed to the demands on eyesight required by reading in digital forms, in addition of course to detecting potential problems in any other area.