There are so many forms of artificial lighting. From our standard LED lightbulbs to our phone screens, unnatural light sources can affect our eyes in different ways. As these artificial light sources are a staple in our daily lives, it’s important to understand how they are affecting us and what we can do about it.

Many of us spend numerous hours a day looking at screens, whether it is a job requirement, a hobby, or an addiction Instagram or Twitter. We have also likely heard from an elder in your life: “Don’t sit too close to the TV or you’ll have to get glasses!” Well, there may be a modicum of truth to that statement.

“Viewing a computer screen for extended periods of time can lead to a group of problems called Computer Vision Syndrome,” says Dr. Danielle Gordon.

The most common symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome include eyestrain, headaches, blurry vision, neck and shoulder pain, and dry eyes.

“When we work on our devices, we typically don’t blink as much as we should. Blinking enables us to spread our tears across the front surface of our eyes, thus keeping them moist and comfortable,” says Dr. Danielle. “Often, the severity of discomfort increases the more hours that are spent on digital devices and can also be related to the particular vision issues the individual may have like far-sightedness and untreated dry eye disease.”

For those who wear contact lenses, the tear film is being disrupted by the presence of the lens, which thus increases the likelihood of dry eyes, Dr. Danielle says. Selecting a contact lens with great wettability and breathability is key, and there are contact lenses available that are designed to provide a small amount of support for near work, which can help alleviate the eye strain that often presents in computer vision syndrome.

For those who don’t wear contact lenses, applying eye drops periodically while engaging in screen time will help to reduce or prevent dry eye symptoms.

As for interior lighting, there are things we should be thinking about if we have the ability to choose the lighting for our homes and office spaces.

“It’s important to select a light source that has a warmer colour temperature and emits a low level of blue light,” says Dr. Danielle.

Many offices use fluorescent lighting, which we know doesn’t do anything for our complexions, but also can harm our eyes.

“Fluorescent light bulbs, although energy efficient, can shed a lot of blue light, and the invisible pulsing and flicker they emit can trigger headaches and strain,” Dr. Danielle explains. “The same is true for cool white LED bulbs. Warm LED bulbs emit lower levels of blue light and tend to be much more comfortable visually, especially if the amount of light can be adjusted by a dimmer. Halogen bulbs also emit a low level of blue light, but they can be quite bright.”

The type of lighting with which you surround yourself is even more important if you experience migraines.

“For many individuals, the colour temperature of the lighting in their environment and their sensitivity to the invisible flicker that is inherent in some lighting types can increase the risk and severity of migraines. If possible, natural light is best for working conditions, and alternatively, a warm white light source is helpful,” says Dr. Danielle.

“Additionally, it’s important to angle our computer and digital screens relative to our light source to manage glare, and also to manage our exposure to the light output from those devices,” says Dr. Danielle. “It’s for this reason that we often prescribe lenses with a blue light anti-glare coating to filter blue light that is emitted from our digital screens, and why it is also advisable to engage the nighttime setting on your phone and to add a filter to your computer screen.”