You probably pay no mind to it…
We do it every day. We start our shift on the computer, running our checksheets, checking our e-mail, logging in to our ePCR programs to check for QA kickbacks and open charts. We get in the rig. You get assigned a post or a call and you look at the CAD and GPS. You check your smartphone or tablet for CAD info on the call you’re about to go in to. You might start prefilling the ePCR now. Your eyes leave the screen long enough to clear intersections.
You’ve on scene and you’ve made patient contact. You’re back to the screen entering demographics, meds, allergies, vital signs. You move to the box with your patient. All your tech is coming together to form a mural of diagnostics on your patient and it too goes into the ePCR. You make it to the ER and now you have to finish your documentation with your final vitals, handoff report, diagnostics, and what have you. You’re back in the rig and at it all over again.
Maybe you’re lucky enough to have a few minutes to rest, so you pull out your phone and check your texts and Facebook. There’s that viral game everyone is playing and you’ve dropped a bit on the leaderboard, so you pop over to the game and play for just a couple minutes before you get back to charting or working on that online CE due by the end of today. Maybe you’ve got more time and a station. A cushy recliner to fall back into has your name on it, and you need to decompress so you watch a movie with the crew.
Do you even realize?
You’re now spending virtually every waking minute of your day in front of one display screen or another. Do you know what it is you have been unwittingly doing to yourself? Do you realize why you have that mild, nagging headache? Do you realize why you keep rubbing your eyes? You aren’t tired yet. You haven’t felt the need to grab an energy drink. So what could it be?
What you are unwittingly doing to yourself is constantly barraging yourself with artificial blue light (1). Every computer screen, smartphone, tablet, and television we encounter now emits this artificial blue light. It has been linked to sleep disorders by interfering with our Circadian rhythms, and it affects our blink rates, giving us dry eyes, and it even gives us headaches.
Sleep in public safety is precious enough. Need we discuss how many accidents and medical errors are attributed to sleep deprivation? It’s a well-known fact. Dry eyes due to less blinking can cause corneal scarring and abrasions, loss of visual acuity, and even ulcerations (2). There are many things that contribute to headaches, including medications, fatigue, stress, sleep apnea, and eye strain. Some studies suggest night owls exposure to light contributes to cancer, diabetes, and even more health disorders and recommended wearing blue light blocking eyewear (3). Emergency Services personnel work around direct blue lights regularly when we are responding to and on scene of emergency calls.
What can you do about it?
Many of us wear corrective lenses now, yours truly no longer being an exception to this. I worked for a blood bank for a year near the beginning of my EMS career and that was where I had my first blood exposure. From that moment on, I vowed to wear some kind of lenses in front of my eyes. I always wore clear lenses, even though I didn’t need them to be corrective. The problem is typical lenses don’t do anything about light outside the non-visible UV spectrum.
Recently, I came across a brand of glasses called “Gunnar”. I found them at the annual CES event in Las Vegas about three years ago, and I tried them out. I found them to be extremely comfortable and after a couple minutes, felt like my eyes weren’t working so hard to focus on the computer displays in their booth.
Fast forward to the present and I’ve decided to give Gunnars a good long look (pun intended). I work in front of computers constantly in my full-time healthcare IT job where I have a wall of big screen monitors watching the health of hundreds of computer systems and I have three monitors on my desk, and when I’m not there, I’m studying to complete my degree online, I’m frequently on my smartphone, or I’m watching my LCD TV’s, or I’m reading a book on my tablet. On the ambulance, I’m blessed with a somewhat inefficient ePCR system and it isn’t unusual to take an hour or more to fill in a chart and check off all the special little boxes that are required to keep me out of PCR jail.
I’ve gotten out of the habit of turning my screen brightness to max when I can avoid it, and I try to get away from the tech for at least a half hour before bed, but I’m finding I still have headaches quite frequently. I’ll be due for some new eyeware soon under my insurance plan, so I’ll get my own prescription Gunnars then. A coworker of mine has a prescription set and he really enjoys them. They look sharp, are minimal in design, and are even becoming a favorite amongst gamers.
Gunnar has a couple lens tints, including sunglasses, regular clear (they call them “crystalline”), and amber. For what we do in public safety and patient care, I wouldn’t recommend the amber tint lenses, as they will shift color perception, which we depend on to assess a patient’s skin color (think cyanosis, pale, and even jaundice), so I’d stick with the crystalline lenses and the sunglass tints.
Remember, you don’t need a corrective lens prescription to wear these. The most common use of Gunnars is non-prescription. Prescription frames and lenses are available though. A nice feature about Gunnars is that they coat both the outside AND the inside of the lenses with an anti-reflective coating. Personally, I can attest to how annoying it is to have an anti-reflective coating on the outside, only to have a little light cause eye reflection on the inside (where you see your own eye refracting light onto the lens and creating distractions from your view).
They’re reasonably priced, especially given that they completely block the blue light wavelengths from all the assorted displays we spend our days and nights in front of. They also offer a wide range of styles so you can pick what’s best for your face and style. Check them out at www.gunnar.com. On their site, you’ll find a few different pages describing the benefits of each type of frame and lens, and a “How Do They Work” page as well.
I do not own a pair of Gunnars, yet. They are going to be my next prescription eyewear purchase due to the research I have done and due to trying a demo set on and wearing them for a bit to get a feel for them. I believe they are the genuine article and not a gimmick, so much so that I applied to be a brand ambassador for them and was accepted. This status with Gunnar thus far has resulted in me getting a free Gunnar t-shirt and nothing else, so really, I haven’t been incentivized to write this article, as I already have plenty of t-shirts… especially from EMS product and service vendors. 😉
Check out the references I used to compile this article below. If you have any experience with Gunnars, please drop me a comment and let me know what you think of them. Thanks for reading!
(1) – Source: VSP Blog at http://vspblog.com/blue-light-infographic/
(2) – Source: NIH’s National Eye Institute at https://nei.nih.gov/health/dryeye/dryeye
(3) – Source: Harvard Health at http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side