Increasing add power in presbyopes doesn’t prevent symptoms of digital eye strain during smartphone use. Photo: Christina @wocintechchat.com on Unsplash. Click image to enlarge.
One suggestion thought to help reduce digital eye strain from larger device use, such as TVs and computers, is presbyopia correction. But does it also prevent symptoms from the use of smaller devices like smartphones and tablets, which the average American uses several hours per day? A recent study claims that it won’t. Its findings suggested that increasing near addition won’t help with eye strain from smartphone use; in fact, it may actually increase the risk of symptoms.
The cross-sectional study consisted of 120 patients who attended a follow-up examination one month after receiving presbyopia correction. At the appointment, each patient filled out a series of questionnaires reporting on their demographics, time spent online, screen use and eye complaints. They also completed the validated Digital Eye Strain Questionnaire (DESQ).
“The DESQ provides a total score that corresponds to the total ill effects from digital eye strain (score range 0-13 points) and three factor scores: the ‘adaptation issues’ factor that refers to ophthalmic issues related to adaptation of the eye to small distances (score range 0-6 points), the ‘dry eye issues’ factor that refers to ophthalmic issues related to dry eye syndrome (score range 0-5) and the ‘posture issues’ factor that refers to ophthalmic issues related to poor posture (score range 0-2),” the researchers explained in their paper.
The results showed that DESQ factor scores and total score correlated with the near addition on statistical measures of adaptation, dry eye and posture issues. The mean DESQ scores were as follows: mean DESQ total score: 6.98, mean adaptation issues factor score: 3.4, mean dry eye issues factor score: 1.67 and mean posture issues factor score: 1.25.
Higher DESQ scores were associated with higher near addition and, interestingly, less time spent using a handheld screen-enabled device. The researchers hypothesized in their paper, “This result may suggest that patients who experience more discomfort could avoid using their handheld devices for longer periods of time.”
Another conclusion from the study was that older adults are especially disadvantaged when using handheld screen-enabled devices compared with younger adults. “[Older adults] are more likely to be presbyopes and need higher near add powers, yet increasing near add power does not guarantee greater comfort in the use of smartphones but rather increases the likelihood of experiencing digital eye strain symptoms,” the researchers concluded.
They noted in their paper that there are several limitations of this study and that a “positive correlation between near addition and digital eye strain does not imply causation.”
Mylona I, Floros GD. Correction of presbyopia alone does not adequately protect against digital eye strain from handheld devices. Optom Vis Sci. September 6, 2022. [Epub ahead of print].