Q: The amount of time my 10-year-old son spends staring at a screen is out of control. I have heard that the blue light from digital devices can cause all kinds of problems, from eye damage to sleep disturbances. Should I get him some blue-light-blocking glasses? - Janine R., Salt Lake City
A: You're right that blue light from digital devices can cause sleep disturbances. During the day, most blue light comes from the sun - and it stimulates parts of the brain that make you feel alert, raising your body temperature and heart rate. But at night, blue light, more than other wavelengths of light, keeps the body's internal clock from releasing melatonin at get-ready-for-sleep times, keeping you awake.
Eye strain from staring nonstop at a screen is also real. It comes from the lack of exercising your eye muscles and focal powers. Every 20 minutes, you should stop and look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. As for serious eye damage, there's not solid evidence of that from blue light.
The smartest way to make sure that digital activities - and the blue light - don't cause any problems is to use all devices with screens correctly. Some tips:
- Ambient lighting should provide a gentle fill in the room around a screen. And remember: Blue light is also emitted by indoor lighting, especially LEDs and compact florescent bulbs. Turn those off as bedtime nears.
- Ergonomics make a big difference too. The computer screen should be about an arm's length from the user's nose; cellphones about half an arm's length. Closer or farther away can cause eye strain and neck, shoulder and wrist pain.
- Use the blue light filter built into digital devices. As the sun goes down, switch over to that filter. Then make sure your child is screen-free for at least an hour before bedtime (reading a paper book would be good).
- Unless your child is experiencing insomnia (then try the glasses), these techniques should be enough to avoid some of the various risks from digital living!
Q: My mom is 94 and has dementia, but not Alzheimer's, according to the doctors. She is taking a whole medicine cabinet full of medications, and I think they actually make her fuzzier. How should I talk to her various doctors about what she is taking and if she can get off some of the meds? - Gary R., Denver
A: Many dementia patients are taking what docs call a polypharmacy - that's three or more medications that affect their central nervous system. And we really don't know how that mixture actually affects different individuals.
A new study in JAMA Network looked at more than a million Medicare patients and found that almost 14% of them were taking such a potentially harmful mix of antidepressants; antipsychotics; antiepileptics; benzodiazepines, such as Valium and Ativan; nonbenzodiazepine benzodiazepine receptor agonist hypnotics, such as Ambien or Sonata; and opioids. And almost a third of those folks were taking five or more such medications. The most common medication combination included an antidepressant, an antiepileptic and an antipsychotic. Gabapentin was the most common medication - often for off-label uses, such as to ease chronic pain or treat psychiatric disorders, according to the researchers from the University of Michigan.
Your best steps are, first, to make sure all her doctors are aware of all the medications she is taking. Second, ask if there are some meds that she may not need anymore but that have been continued automatically. Then ask the doctors to tell you what they know about the side effects of each and the contraindications of the combinations. Discuss the possibility of weaning your mom off of one or more to see if her alertness and focus improves. Do not just stop having her take any of those meds abruptly -- the reaction could be very hard on her or even dangerous. For further guidance check out the Canadian website https://deprescribing.org; search for "deprescribing guidelines."
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer Emeritus at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at youdocsdaily(at sign)sharecare.com.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.