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Digital Tablets: Beneficial or Detrimental to Eyesight?

With the recent success of digital tablets, including Apple iPads, Kindles and the Galaxy Touch, it is no surprise that they appear to be gradually replacing traditional forms of text, such as print books and newspapers. As we now find ourselves firmly established in the ‘digital age’, it is important to consider the effects this new technology may be having on our health.

Recent research suggests that for people suffering from common eye conditions such as macular degeneration and cataracts, text on a backlit screen may allow for faster reading speeds and increased comfort. When asked to read text from both an iPad and a Kindle, researchers found all participants managed to read more quickly on a digital tablet than printed text. Those with mild visual impairments increased their reading speed by an average of 15 words-per-minute.

It is believed that the backlit screens of these digital devices can increase contrast sensitivity for the users. Contrast sensitivity can be defined as the degree at which words and letters appear distinct from their background. For users with visual impairments, this can act as a useful aid to reading.

So, in the light of this research, should we all be abandoning novels and newspapers in favour of digital tablets?

Well, associate clinical professor and chief of the Binocular Vision Clinic in Berkely, stresses that it is important to use these technologies with caution. Whilst there is no evidence to suggest they can cause serious damage to the eyes, the format of the screens may cause unnecessary eyestrain.

These handheld devices often use small font sizes to fit a large amount of text into a small screen. When our eyes work harder to read this text, the muscles surrounding the eyes contract which can result in eye fatigue or eye strain. The symptoms of eyestrain include headaches, dry eyes and blurred vision; side effects which can be easily avoided with limited usage of digital tablets or electronic devices.

Other issues raised when discussing the problems of digital tablets and computer include the difficulty of finding a comfortable position for the neck, back and shoulders. Whilst when reading a book we can easily lie down or relax in a comfortable position, the very nature of a computer screen requires the user to sit upright. Similarly, the added weight of a digital tablet can cause unnecessary strain to the neck and shoulders. It is advised that these devices be used for limited time periods to avoid prolonged stress to the eyes and upper body.

However, as the technology for digital tablets is constantly changing and developing, perhaps they will soon be the ideal replacements for the now seemingly old-fashioned printed texts. Already, Kindles have been developed with the capability to ‘zoom in’ or offer an enlarged view of the text which may offer a quick solution to the problem of eyestrain.

But in the meantime, exercise your use of digital tablets with caution; enjoy their functionality and versatility, but avoid prolonged periods of time reading from screens.

Author Bio:- Victoria writes on the subject of technology for cheap prescription glasses retailer, DirectSight. Read more of her work for Vision Media.

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