Digital Eye Strain Common Among Radiologists

June 11, 2020

Symptoms of digital eye strain are felt more among women and trainees.

It is widely understood that staring at digital screens for hours at a time can take a toll on an individual’s eyesight. By the nature of the work required, radiologists are reporting greater levels of eye strain across all areas of the profession.

In a study published in Academic Radiology, a team of researchers from Saudi Arabia detailed that radiologists have reported more symptoms associated with digital eye strain, including irritated eyes, eye fatigue, and headaches, within the past year. These findings are based on group of nearly 200 radiologists most of whom were under the age of 40.

According to the research team, led by Omran Al Dandan, M.D., from Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University in Saudia Arabia, the introduction of PACS, however vital to clinical radiology, has played a significant role in the uptick of digital eye strain providers are experiencing. Increased workload throughout the profession has also be integral.

To determine the impact of increased screen time Dandan’s team conducted a survey with 198 participants. Of the group, 71 percent were under age 40, and most reported reading images for 7-to-9 hours daily. Respondents shared details about their workload and workstation set-up, personal eye care regimen, demographic information, and a personal assessment of their eye strain symptoms.

According to the results, more than a quarter – 26.8 percent -- reported having an eye exam within the previous year, and slightly more half – 50.5 percent – admitted to having digital eye strain symptoms. In addition, approximately 25 percent admitted to taking only one daily break to rest their eyes. This is significant, the investigators pointed out, because a lack of frequent breaks is an independent risk factor for digital eye strain.

Having an adjustable workstation seemed somewhat protective, they said. Providers who were equipped with workstations that were adjustable for height and viewing (more than half of the radiologists surveyed) reported experiencing fewer eye strain symptoms. Frequent breaks, blinking periodically, and using eye drops could also help reduce the risk of eye strain, the team suggested.

Overall, eye strain problems appeared at higher levels in two groups, the researchers said. Women, 87 of whom participated in the study, reported more eye strain symptoms. In fact, they had an almost four-times higher risk of having tired, irritated, or burning eyes. The team hypothesized that women might be more affected because they experience higher levels of evaporation in their eyes than their male counterparts. Eye pain was also more common among radiology residents, potentially because they must spend more time examining images due to inexperience, the team postulated.

Although smartphones and personal computers could also contribute to the level of eye strain radiologists experience, Dandan’s team did not include them in this study.