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Why Your Eyes Hurt Using a New iPhone, iPad Or iMac

By Joshua Lockhart2013-01-22

The Apple LED screen is a common source of complaint among consumers. Many new iPhone, iPad, and Mac users have reported that it causes eyestrain and general discomfort, yet if you look around on the Internet, you can’t find much backing for the problem. Apple itself hasn’t offered a solution, and some people think that it’s even some kind of conspiracy. Personally, I think that the Cupertino-based company has better things to do than blind the eyes of the world, but then again, I’m not an evil dictatorial genius.

The screens themselves have been around for a while, but after all that time, there still isn’t an explanation for their eye-trouble-inducing capabilities. I’ve done my research, and I found common concerns about the screens as well as some homegrown remedies. In the meantime, I suppose we’ll just have to work with what we know, and that’s not much.

What Are Some Complaints About The New LED Screens?

These days, the most common displays used for electronic devices are LED screens and LCD screens. LED displays implement light-emitting diodes as backlights, offering bright pictures, vivid colors, and low energy usage. On the other hand, LCD displays make use of liquid crystals laid over flat fluorescent lights that aren’t as bright, colorful, or energy efficient. It’s clear as to which one is superior, but at what cost?

In 2009, Apple started pushing out the LED screens for their hardware, bringing about statements from some users that their eyes hurt from using them. This has been a common annoyance, and finding sound evidence for these users’ reports is a bit tough. I will say that there has been definitely enough of a stir that I was swayed to believe them. Reasonable people don’t usually whine unless something is actually wrong. Here’s a list of most symptoms:

  • Burning eyes
  • Sore eyes
  • Tired eyes
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Headache

How Can The LED Screens Hurt Your Eyes?

I can’t provide a valid reason as to why the LEDs are a cause of eyestrain. Unfortunately, my only sources include the personal accounts of people who simply claim that the LEDs hurt more than the LCDs. It’s my opinion that it’s different for different people, and as with any case of a technology usage shift, humans have to make adjustments. On that wavelength, I’ve found a few possible reasons as to why they hurt, but they are by no means well-founded.

It’s Too Bright

Common sense will tell you that bright lights hurt your eyes, and with an LED screen that is brighter and more vivid than old LCDs, it’s expected. Try adjusting your screen to be a bit dimmer than normal, and see if this alleviates anything. Additionally, try letting your device automatically set the levels for a while. See what’s best for you.

It’s Too Dark

I found a bit of information on LED televisions that is about the screen’s refresh rate. We won’t get into numbers, but the way that LED displays are dimmed is by applying pulse-width modulation to the supply current. This turns the backlight off and on faster than you can see, and much like old CRT monitors, this flickering can put strain on your eyes. If the frequency is too low or if you are already sensitive to the flickering, your eyes will more than likely hurt.

An easy test to see if the frequency is too low is by waving your hand in front of the screen. If your hand has clearly-formed edges, then it’s too low. However, if it is blurred, you should be fine.

You Aren’t Blinking Enough

Lastly, there’s the possibility that you just aren’t blinking enough. Some people say it doesn’t help, but by taking a break every 20-30 minutes to look out a window or just away from the screen for a few seconds, you could find some relief. We use screens a lot these days, and sometimes we forget that our eyes weren’t designed to stare at electronic devices for hours at a time. Speaking of which, our body wasn’t designed for a lot of technological adaptations – that includes sitting down.

The Verdict

Let me be blunt – I do think there is a problem. People wouldn’t go around saying that their eyes were hurting if there wasn’t one, would they? Whether it be the placebo effect, intensified eyestrain, or long-lasting damage, I believe that this is something that should be looked into by Apple. However, I can’t put a finger on what exactly the problem is.

Do the new Apple LED screens hurt your eyes? How do they compare to the old LCDs?

Topics: Mac

Tags: ergonomy, health


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