Television and Your Eyes

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Eye care experts generally agree: Watching television will not harm your eyes or vision if the TV room is lit properly and if you follow a few viewing tips. In fact, there is usually less strain involved in TV viewing than in doing close work such as sewing or reading. But TV watching for long stretches of time can leave your eyes fatigued. 

What are the best conditions for TV viewing? 

A normally lit room, suitable for general activities, is best. Excessively bright lighting tends to reduce contrast on the screen and “wash out” the picture. No lights should be placed where glare or reflections will be seen in or near the television screen. Strongly colored lighting should not be used and surroundings should be neutral in color. 

Is it all right to watch television in a dark room? 

This situation is not ideal. When the room is totally dark, the contrast between the television screen and the surrounding area is too great for comfortable and efficient vision. When the room is softly illuminated, undesirable high contrast is kept to a minimum. 

Is it better to adjust the television set to room lighting or room lighting to the set? 

Adapt the set’s brightness and contrast to room lighting — not room lighting to the set — after the room lights have been turned on. 

Children sometimes sit close to the set.   Does this hurt their eyes? 

While close-up viewing is certainly not recommended, it is generally not harmful. It is best to watch television from a distance of at least five times the width of the picture. Picture details will appear sharper and better defined and the television lines and defects will be less apparent. If your child persists in watching television from a short distance, have his or her vision checked. Nearsighted (myopic) children like to sit close to the screen. 

What does it mean if the eyes water or if there is other visual discomfort while watching television? 

It could indicate a problem that needs professional attention. Some viewers, especially those over 50 years old, may find relief with glasses for television viewing. Discomfort could also indicate that the drainage passages which drain tears from the eyes into the nose are partially blocked or a tear film deficiency (“dry eyes”) that require examination. 

What about color television for viewers with color vision deficiencies?

Color vision deficiency (color blindness) is generally not a barrier to enjoying color television. However, viewers with color deficiencies may disagree with others as to the “proper” color adjustment. A color TV picture properly adjusted for most people may appear too green to a protanomalous (weak red) observer, or too red to a deuteranomalous (weak green) viewer. When the set is adjusted to “correct” its color, the resulting picture is usually unsatisfactorily tinted for other viewers. Viewers who are severely color deficient, the so-called “red blind” or “green blind,” will see little or no difference in widely different color mixtures, and will not be bothered by most color adjustments.

TV viewing tips: 

  • Make sure your television set is properly installed and place the set to avoid glare and reflections from lamps, windows and other bright sources. 
  • Adjust brightness and contrast controls to individual and/or viewer’s taste and comfort. 
  • Have the set at approximately eye level. Avoid having to look up or down at the picture. 
  • Avoid staring at the screen for lengthy periods. Briefly look away from the picture, around the room or out the window. 
  • Wear lenses prescribed for vision correction, if advised to do so by your eye care practitioner. 
  • View from a distance at least five times the width of the television screen. 

Written by Trevor Miranda

Dr. Miranda was raised in Simcoe, Ontario and graduated from the University of Waterloo with his Doctorate of Optometry in 1995. Following graduation, he moved to beautiful Vancouver Island, where he continues to serve the eye care needs of the Cowichan Valley. Trevor is also an active member of the Third World Eye Care Society and has participated with other professionals to improve the vision of the less fortunate. Dr. Miranda was named Optometrist of the Year by the British Columbia Association of Optometrists in March 2015. This prestigious honour recognized Dr. Miranda’s commitment to providing every patient with exceptional care while mentoring optometrists across Canada. Outside the office, you will find Trevor enjoying hockey, coaching soccer, involved with the South Cowichan Rotary Club, and spending time with his wife Cheryl and their three children. Trevor looks forward to continuing to care for the eyes of the Cowichan Valley and welcomes new patients without a referral. Dr. Miranda is available for appointments in our Duncan and Cobble Hill.
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