Are You Tired of Having Tired Eyes?

Updated: Aug 4, 2021

“My eyes are always tired”, “my eyes are slow to focus and feel irritated”, “my neck and shoulders ache”. These are frequent complaints you may have heard from those who spend long hours on their computer screens every day, such as office workers. Most probably they are suffering from computer vision syndrome (CVS) which is characterised by dry and tired eyes, and can lead to neck and shoulder pain as they squint their eyes at the screens and subconsciously hunch forward. This ultimately causes a drop in energy and efficiency at work. In the US, it was estimated in 2001 that the loss in productivity due to CVS cost 0.8% (US$45-54 billion) of the country’s annual GDP.

There is also a high prevalence of CVS in the Asia-Pacific region (Fig.1). Thanks to the digital devices that have become omnipresent in our lives, our eyes are exposed to digital screens more than ever before. In Singapore, it has been reported that 65% of children used electronic devices before 3 years of age, and by the time they reach 12 years old, they spend on average 6.5 hours daily on digital screens. Seniors (> 55 years of age) are also rapidly adapting to the digital lifestyle, with over 65% using smartphones or tablets since 2013. These statistics indicate that a growing number of individuals will eventually develop digital eye fatigue, the most prominent symptom of CVS. Therefore, proactively preventing it will also be the most effective way to address the growing epidemic of CVS.

Causes of Digital Eye Fatigue

The ciliary body is a ring of muscles which control the thickness of the eye lens. Its contraction helps the lens focus on near objects. When these muscles relax, the lens flattens out, enabling us to focus on distant objects. Just like any other muscles in the body, some exercise is good, however, prolonged contraction without rest leads to fatigue. When we focus our eyes on near objects (phones & computers) for hours at a time, the muscles of the ciliary body become overworked, leading to tiredness - as their mitochondria (cellular powerhouses) cannot keep up with the continuous energy demands required by these working muscles. This leads to slower focusing and reduced visual sharpness. The blue light from digital screens is also a major cause of digital eye fatigue. It specifically reduces contrast, making the ciliary muscles work even harder as we strain to distinguish objects visually, hence further stressing the ciliary muscles. Moreover, as we age, the lens loses its flexibility and becomes more rigid - thereby increasing the pressure on the ciliary muscle to adjust our vision for near focus. All of these can lead to temporary blurring of vision, a condition known as pseudomyopia, due to transient micro-spasms of the overworked ciliary muscles.


Ways to Fight Digital Eye Fatigue

1. Adjust your work environment: ensure adequate distance between your eyes and the computer screen, and align the top of your screen to your eye level.

2. Keep your eyes moist: use artificial tears to hydrate your eyes and take frequent breaks to rest your eyes – after every 20 minutes, look away to 20 meters for 20 seconds.

3. Consume nutrition that targets visual protection and health: eat leafy green vegetables and choose a dietary supplement to compensate for what is not provided by your diet.

Eye-Targeting Nutrition

Clinical evidence indicates lutein and zeaxanthin can help with eye strain and eye fatigue by minimising blue light damage. These nutrients accumulate mostly in the back of the eye, primarily protecting the macula against blue light-induced oxidative damage and help to reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration. However, they cannot directly act on the ciliary muscles and relieve them from overwork.

Astaxanthin, a red carotenoid produced naturally by the marine algae, Haematococcus pluvialis, strategically penetrates into the ciliary body. With its highly efficient antioxidant properties, astaxanthin protects the mitochondria in ciliary muscles from oxidative damage and promotes their energy production, thereby increasing the resilience and stamina of the ciliary muscles. Furthermore, astaxanthin’s anti-inflammatory properties also reduce inflammation of overworked ciliary muscles and support their function and quicker recovery. As such, astaxanthin offers “front-of-the-eye” protection and consequently complements the “back-of-the-eye” protective effects of lutein and zeaxanthin.

Years of clinical research has proven that astaxanthin can indeed effectively improve the refocusing ability of the eye and reduce digital eye fatigue.

Learn from Nature

Throughout nature we’re finding examples of how astaxanthin naturally accumulates in the eyes of animals. For example, birds with reddish eyes, such as seagulls and Japanese quail which depend highly upon their sharp vision in tough environments, are known to have particularly high concentrations of astaxanthin in their eyes. Astaxanthin protects their eyes against UV-induced oxidative damage, and allows them to perform rapid refocusing adjustments as they fly at high speeds catching their prey. Whereas lutein and zeaxanthin can be found in a variety of common food sources such as spinach, broccoli, corn and eggs, astaxanthin can only be found in red seafood such as salmon or shrimp.

These animals accumulate trace amounts of astaxanthin in their body as they feed on the algae which produces astaxanthin. For example, to achieve the therapeutic effects of astaxanthin for the eye, one must consume more than 1kg of wild caught king salmon every day!

It is therefore necessary to obtain the therapeutic dosages of astaxanthin in the form of dietary supplements. The most efficient and potent source of astaxanthin comes from the algae themselves - AstaReal are the pioneers and leaders of astaxanthin production from purest strain of H. Pluvialis algae.

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