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'The Digital World'

By Royston Bayfield

For the past month, I’ve been asking my team to log what is the hottest topic our clients were asking about in practice? The answer was unanimous: the digital world. This is a topic I’m also really interested in. As a self-confessed geek, I live for gadgets. I love getting a new iPhone and I use my iPad daily for both business and pleasure. I get a kick out of the fact that my laptop, emails, iPhone, iPad and car are all perfectly synced. Even my 17-month old daughter Maddie uses an iPhone, albeit to watch Peppa Pig, but she has definitely developed the want to hold an iPhone from both me and Caroline, her mummy. What does this say about us? We are basically plugged in. 

This video says it all: 

The figure below demonstrates that the digital world has officially taken over – we are addicts, converts, 100% connected and our usage of digital devices is ever amplifying:

Digital Device Usage

Did you know that in 2013, the number of mobile-connected devices exceeded the world's population?

Wow, this is a stunning fact.

Smartphones, tablets and GPS systems have become part of everyday life for most people. For those in my age bracket - people aged 30-49 in the UK:

  • 75% are smartphone users

  • 63% spend 5 or more hours a day using digital devices

  • 29% have a tablet or e-book reader

People in their mid to late 40s (an age I’m getting very close to!) will have noticed a decline in the near vision function of their eyes. This often leads to people holding reading material further away until their arms become too short! Only at this point do most of us get over our age-related denial, give in and invest in some form of near vision specs. This is nothing new and it is something that will happen to almost all of us eventually. However, what is new is the challenges we face due to our ever increasing use of digital devices. In a nutshell, by continually raising the amount of time spent looking at different screens, we’re rapidly speeding up the ageing process of our eyes.  Here’s how…

There are 2 main visual problems associated with our smart phones:

  1. The 1st (which I am covering today) is the closeness with which we use these devices (the lifestyle part of the equation.)

  2. The 2nd (which I shall blog about next month) is the health impacts associated with the blue light emitted from our digital devices. 

New challenges for the human eye

The frequent use of digital mobile devices is challenging for the human eye. This change in lifestyle constantly requires our eyes to focus and align, in order to better view digital screens. So the number of daily cycles switching from far to near vision and back has increased considerably. Like any repetitive muscle movement, stress to our ciliary muscles (over focusing more) means our eyes get tired quicker through the course of day. This eventually leads to diminishing capabilities of our eyes. So consequently, looking at digital screens more frequently can result in blurred vision, tired or dry eyes, headaches, neck strains and even permanent damage.

Problems From Using Digital Devices

For those that have presbyopia (i.e. you struggle to see things close up) this has always been a problem; but the use of digital devices is now affecting a new and slightly younger group of individuals. Most people in their 30s and 40s like myself who frequently use digital devices have tired eyes and a stiff neck at the end of the day… I know I do! Most are either unaware that they need spectacles or put off by the idea of buying them. Many of us live in an increasingly superficial world, which judges based on appearance and aesthetics. So inevitably we become keen to maintain our healthy, youthful good looks! In all seriousness though, the stigma within our society that is attached to wearing glasses is still very present, and may have actually gotten worse with the innovations of contact lenses and laser eye surgery. So we remain reluctant to seek the required vision correction which will help our pains. Thus we are torn between the want to look great, and the need to keep up with the modern and very real challenge of digital eye strain. The simple fact is that we need to keep up and enhance our performance for today’s lifestyle.


The solution to our common conundrum

There are various ways we can help improve our visual performance in a new digital world. There are the traditional solutions of anti-fatigue lenses and near vision specs. For those of you that are still image conscious and don’t like the idea of wearing glasses, and all the stereotypical, age-old implications associated with it, there’s multifocal contact lenses. However these options don't really tick enough boxes anymore, as they simply weren't designed for the increased use of handheld digital devices.

Fear not though, there is a new product class emerging, pioneered by Zeiss. This is the digital lensIt's a lens that you can use all of the time that has a very small change in power at the bottom of the lens. This allows the edge to be taken off our focusing. The benefits are:  

  • Helps the eye to focus more easily

  • Stress and strain-free viewing throughout the entire day

  • Easy adaptation for unaccustomed eyes

  • For universal use throughout the day.

Zeiss Digital Lenses Tried And Trusted


What the diagram above shows is that out of 49 people, only 16% didn’t experience any problems associated with digital strain. After these 49 people trialled the Zeiss Digital Lens, a whopping 61% of them didn’t experience any problems associated with digital strain, and 90% of them agreed that the digital lens reduced their problems by a factor of 4!


So is there really a need for this technology?

As a man in his mid 30s, engaged with the ever-evolving technologically obsessed world he is living in, I can whole heartedly say yes! I often find that at the end of a day my eyes are tired and this has certainly got worse as the use of my iPad and phone has increased – the direct correlation is evident.

The reality we must all face is this way of working is now the norm; we spend hours and hours on our phones and tablets whether it’s work, Facebook or simply playing Angry Birds to pass the time. We are now plugged in most of the time and we need to accept that this has consequences to our vision which needs to be treated, so that we can improve the overall quality of our lives.

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