gaming addiction

Understanding the Link Between Eye Problems and Gaming Addiction: Insights from a Therapist

The CATCH Recovery therapists have witnessed how excessive gaming can impact mental and emotional well-being and physical health, particularly eye health. This article will delve into the relationship between these two concerns and shed light on the potential risks for our eyes associated with problematic gaming behaviours.

The Strain on Eye Health

Eye problems are common among gamers who spend prolonged periods of time engaged in gaming activities. Staring at screens for extended durations can lead to a range of issues, collectively referred to as “Computer Vision Syndrome” or “Digital Eye Strain.” Symptoms can include:

  • dry eyes
  • eye fatigue
  • blurry vision (without dioptric needs)
  • headaches
  • increased sensitivity to light

These symptoms arise from a prolonged focus on screens, reduced blinking, and exposure to the blue light emitted by electronic devices.

When working with patients through the causes and consequences of gaming disorders, we also note that not everything they experience is caused by their computer, console or mobile use. It’s important to contact a medical professional and check all physical symptoms in case something else is at play as it may obstruct the healing process. How? you may ask. Here’s a situation: we can help a patient find better-coping mechanisms, and other hobbies and make healthier lifestyle choices, but if their headaches or blurred vision are still present, they will start doubting their process and solutions.

Unless they know that the headaches are not caused by the gaming time at all but by genetics, migraines, food triggers or other non-addiction-related items.

Intense Gaming Sessions and Eye Fatigue

Extended and intense gaming sessions, commonly seen in cases of gaming addiction, subject people to prolonged periods of immersion in the virtual world. During these sessions, the continuous concentration demanded by gaming, coupled with the bright and fast-paced visuals, puts a significant strain on the eyes. It also exposes the pupils to dangerous light types which are uncommon for natural environments, but also quick blinking shifts between dark and light. This prolonged visual strain can result in eye fatigue, discomfort, and a decline in overall eye health.

While people who game often can experience some emotional benefits, staring at crosshairs for hours at a time, or the tiny main character in platformers while trying to speed-run one can be harmful to your health. Our patients who come in for counselling with a gaming addiction often complain of headaches and many of the aforementioned eye conditions.

Reduced Blinking and Dry Eyes

The prolonged exposure to screens, characterised by fixed gaze and reduced blinking frequency, further exacerbates the eye strain. Blinking is a natural mechanism that lubricates the eyes, keeping them moist and preventing dryness. Dryness can cause damage to the lenses, including, but not limited to:

  •  discomfort
  •  itching
  •  redness
  • the sensation of grittiness in the eyes
  • blurry vision
  • potential corneal damage
  • increased risk of eye infections
  • difficulties with contact lens wear

People often blink less frequently when deeply engrossed in gaming, compromising the eye’s natural moisture balance. Prolonged screen time can potentially lead to blocked or narrowed tear ducts. This is treatable, and treatment may include options such as warm compresses, gentle massage, prescribed eye drops, or in some cases, surgery to clear or bypass the obstruction.

Blue Light Exposure and Sleep Disruptions

Electronic devices used for gaming emit blue light, which can affect the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.

“Blue light” refers to a specific range of light wavelengths within the visible light spectrum, typically ranging from 380 to 500 nanometers. It is characterised by its short wavelength and high energy levels. Blue light is naturally emitted by the sun, but also by electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, computer screens and LED lighting. Long-term exposure to blue light, particularly in the evening or nighttime, has been associated with potential effects on sleep-wake cycles, eye health and overall well-being, including mental health.

Excessive exposure to blue light, especially during evening and nighttime gaming sessions, can disrupt the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. This disruption can lead to difficulty falling asleep, restless sleep patterns, and daytime fatigue.

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Preventive Measures for Eye Health

To promote eye health while engaging in gaming activities, there are several preventive measures we advise you to consider.

First, regular breaks from gaming sessions allow the eyes to rest and recover. The 20-20-20 rule can be helpful: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus on an object approximately 20 feet away. The farther the object is, the better. Many of our patients prefer to look at the horizon for optimal effects.

Second, ensure proper ambience for eye health: make sure the lighting in the gaming environment is not blinking or artificial, maintain a comfortable viewing distance from the screen, and consciously blink more frequently to alleviate eye strain. Using screens with built-in blue light filters or wearing blue light-blocking glasses can also help reduce the impact of blue light on sleep and eye health.

Please note that some yellow-tinted glasses don’t obstruct blue light, recolour it. In such cases, the factual harmful effects are still present. This is why you should purchase tried and tested brands only. Yellow-tinted glasses can alleviate some of the worst symptoms of digital eye strain.

Excessive Screen Time Can Be Harmful, But Can Also Be Put under Control

The potential impact of excessive gaming on eye health is a danger we should all be aware of, and make our children understand how problematic it may become with prolonged exposure to computer and smartphone displays. The strain from prolonged screen time, reduced blinking, and exposure to blue light can lead to a range of eye problems. By being mindful of these risks and adopting preventive measures, we can all prioritise eye health while still enjoying gaming activities. Remember, taking breaks, practising good eye care habits, and seeking a balance between screen time and other activities are essential for maintaining healthy eyes and overall well-being.

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