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Warning: Looking at your computer screen can cause vision problems

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The digital era has literally brought the world to our fingertips via computers, smart phones, tablets and televisions, which allow lightening speed access to information through a screen.

But all that screen gazing can damage your eyes, warns a new survey released Thursday by the Vision Council, which found that 70 percent of adults suffer from ‘digital eye strain’ from intensely staring into the screens of their various media devices.

The condition causes much discomfort, with symptoms of blurry vision, dry eyes, fatigue and cramping in the neck and shoulder area – and the survey released today warns that ‘digital eye strain’ can lead to severe long-term vision problems, such as macular degeneration and cataracts.

The Vision Council is a trade group of manufacturers of eye care products.

Dr. Michele Zormeier, a double board-certified facial cosmetic surgeon and ENT physician in Indianapolis who is not with The Vision Council, says that intensely staring into screens is what takes such a toll on the eyes.

“When you’re gazing into a screen, whether it’s your TV, computer, phone or any other mobile device, you blink less,” explained Dr. Zormeier. “And when you blink less, you end up drying out your eyes due to a lack of tears to keep them moist.”

Dr. Joshua L. Dunaief, associate professor of ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Scheie Eye Institute who also has no connection with The Vision Center, agrees, telling NBC News that the solution is to blink every 10 seconds or so.

Meanwhile, the Vision Council has yet another solution. The group is at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas promoting special lenses, as in “computer eyeglasses”, which are specially designed for screen viewing.

Nevertheless, intensely staring into screens comes with some serious risks, according to the survey, which involved 7,160 American respondents who completed the survey online last October.

The results showed that 60 percent of those completing the survey reported spending at least six hours looking at screens each day. Another 28 percent reported looking at screens for 10 hours or more. Eye discomfort from ‘digital eye strain’ was reported by 70 percent of the survey respondents.

Brooklyn optometrist Justin Bazan, a paid consultant to the Vision Council, said that the problem with ‘digital eye strain’ is people think the discomfort from it is normal.

“It’s so common and pervasive, they consider it a cost of doing business. They don’t know there are things you can do,” Bazan said.

In the meantime, there are some other ways you can help minimize the strain on your eyes when looking at screens as follows:

1. Place your desktop computer screens at approximately an arm’s length and do not tilt the screen.

2. For smaller screens, such as your smart phone or tablet, hold the screen just below eye level to minimize glare.

3. Take your eyes off any screen for a brief period every 20 minutes or so.

4. It also helps to walk away from your screen and walk around for a short time to give your eyes a break and give your circulation a boost.

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