Article

THE DIGITAL EYE

2 O.D.s share their smartest strategies for treating today’s growing number of digital device users PLUS a bonus guide to digital user types

WE’VE ALL HEARD THE NUMBERS:

Most people—adults and children—spend a lot of time on their computers, phones, and other digital devices. One resounding result? At least 59% of adults today complain of digital eye strain symptoms, according to The Vision Council. Another result: ECPs today are treating an increasing level of dry eye, near-point accommodation issues, and digital eye strain (DES) symptoms.

“As eyecare practitioners, we need to prescribe not only the refraction but also designs, materials, and lens treatments that will address our patients’ visual needs, and that includes their digital use,” says Heidi Q.T. Pham-Murphy, O.D., president of Visions Optometry and vice president of Eye Designs Optometry, both in greater Sacramento, CA. “This can mean different designs for different functions.”

In fact, EB’s 2018 Lens Focus Group Study found that 40% of ECPs now prescribe special lens designs for digital users. And, while just 18% cite blue light protection as their top-selling lens treatment, a full 77% anticipate growth in the next two years in blue light treatments.

How can you get on board in your practice? Here, Dr. Pham-Murphy joins Kelci Rolfstad, O.D., of Heights Eyecare, a five-doctor practice in Billings, MT, to share with EB how they specifically address—and uniquely treat—their patients’ digital use.

KELCI ROLFSTAD, O.D.

EB: Does the type of digital device used by the patient impact the symptom + treatment?

Dr. Rolfstad: The longevity of being on the device definitely makes a difference. But a handheld device can cause more symptoms than having a computer monitor that’s at arm’s length or farther. The patient is having to focus more when the device is closer and is exposed to more light.

EB: How do you determine what type of digital user you’ve got, and why is it important?

Dr. Pham-Murphy: Understanding what our patients are looking at and how they move is the key to deciding on single vision, progressives, or even both. I will ask my patient if they work in an enclosed office, in a cubicle, or in an open office space.

I also ask them what they are looking at: video, spreadsheets, emails, etc. Asking a patient if they move around or if they get interrupted when working is also a critical component.

EB: What is your go-to lens solution for DES?

Dr. Rolfstad: I’m partial to the BluTech material rather than the blue light coatings. I like computer-specific designs, like an office design for presbyopes (second-pair sale).

For contact lens wearers I like a low-powered computer pair or even a plano lens with the blue light protection that they can slip on while at their computer. If I have a single-vision patient with difficulty in up-close accommodation, I’ll prescribe a single-vision lens with a little boost in the near.

Go-to DES products: Shamir’s Workspace for PALs and Shamir Relax for single vision.

Dr. Pham-Murphy: Workspace lenses have a bigger zone dedicated to your computer vision, and they reduce neck and shoulder fatigue from trying to tip your head back to get into your intermediate viewing area.

For mobile device users, I like PALs that place that mobile viewing zone a little higher to match where patients are holding their devices.

Every single-vision wearer can benefit from lenses with the accommodative bump in the near zone. Children also do really well with this lens design.

Go-to DES products: For PALs it’s either Hoya’s MyStyle, LifeStyle Harmony, or Workspace, or Unity Via OfficePro 10 from VSP Optics. For single vision, it’s Hoya Sync or VSP Optics’ Unity Relieve.

EB: Blue light protection…is there a need?

Dr. Pham-Murphy: Yes! In addition to reducing exposure, blue light filters help with eye fatigue by reflecting the blue light that scatters the most and causes fatigue.

Dr. Rolfstad: I feel like we’re all in a digital experiment and we just don’t know the long-term effects of that. It can be a hard sell for someone who doesn’t have a history of macular degeneration to buy a separate pair of eyewear just for the blue light, but the fact that it can help with the patient’s current digital eye strain symptoms is a great bonus.

TITIMA ONGKANTONG / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

MATCH THE USER TO THE LENS

Heidi Q.T. Pham-Murphy, O.D., outlines the types of digital device users she sees, and how she treats them:

» THE “ALWAYS-ON” USER

Usage: Uses a variety of devices and always need to be connected.

Lens Solutions: This patient will need a variety of solutions as well as environmental modifications to help them. Clear lenses with blue-light-reflecting AR for daytime, pigmented blue-light-absorbing lenses for night. Discussion about eye fatigue and sleep cycles.

» THE AT-WORK USER

Usage: Uses one or more computer screens for a large portion of the workday.

Lens Solutions: Will vary; understanding what the patient looks at and how they move in their workday is key in prescribing. Solution should include blue light protection and a possible computer design depending on workplace situation.

» THE CHILD/TEEN USER

Usage: Devices at school, then recreational use at home. At home, can be an “always on.”

Lens Solutions: Lenses that filter out or reflect blue light, and a design that provides a little bump in the near zone (if warranted). Discussion about when to get off of the devices (two hours before bedtime) and healthy lifestyle habits that will help them now and into their future.

PRO TIP » BEWARE THE CASUAL USER.

Patients may misrepresent (or not even realize) the extent of their digital use. Someone who “doesn’t even use a computer for work” can be an intense user at home. Always ask the specific questions.

THE MARKET FOR DES LENS SOLUTIONS

Digital eye strain is becoming a pervasive issue, and patients are responding to products that can help. EB’s 2018 virtual focus group study on lens dispensing showed a strong—and growing—market for lens designs (everyday wear and second pair) and treatments that address digital eye strain symptoms.

Here’s what our survey of ECPs found:

» 40% prescribe lens designs for digital use

» 40% dispense lens treatments designed for digital use

» 18% cite blue light protection as their top-selling lens treatment

» 67% anticipate growth in the next two years in anti-fatigue lenses

» 77% anticipate growth in the next two years in blue light treatments

WEB EXCLUSIVE: KEEP READING!

Find more strategies and tips for dealing with digital eye strain from Drs. Pham-Murphy and Rolfstad on our website. Visit eyecarebusiness.com/web-exclusives .