Have you ever noticed that in a theater, the lighting is never fully on? Lighting designers adjust the focus and intensity of light throughout a play—and for good reason: eyes get fatigued. The same principle applies to computer use. In this generation, most jobs require you to sit in front of a computer screen daily. The effects of prolonged computer use, though, can amount to Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).
CVS refers to a number of eye problems caused through computer use, from eyestrain to eye pain. It is common in 50-90% of all computer users and has proven in current research to be temporary in most cases. Children are also in danger of CVS from excessive video game time or even computer usage at school.
CVS is akin to carpal tunnel syndrome. Repetitive stress due to continuous focus leads to symptoms such as blurred vision, double vision, dry/red eyes, irritation, headaches, and neck or back pain. These symptoms can worsen with more use or a pre-existing vision condition gone uncorrected. Research is also searching for the contributions of radiation from computers to CVS. Workplace lighting can actually exacerbate these symptoms, as certain offices were not necessarily built for computer use to begin with. Moreover, computers can be less precise or sharply defined than printed text, creating a struggle to maintain focus over concentrated periods of time.
The good news is current evidence does not indicate permanent changes or damage to the eyes. Oftentimes, eye problems decline after computer use for the day has stopped. If these symptoms go unacknowledged, however, they can not only recur but also grow worse to the point of irreparable damage over time.
Here are a few simple steps to relieve CVS, maintain your vision, and prevent any permanent vision disorders:
- Have an annual comprehensive eye exam. For one, eye exams can rule out or treat any pre-existing vision conditions. Also, if occupational eyewear becomes necessary (or optometric vision therapy in cases in which eyewear is not enough), then you want to get a prescription early.
- Cut the glare on your computer screen. Changes in the lighting of your environment or the use of a glare filter can protect your eyes from straining to see past the pesky glare of a computer screen.
- Blink often. It may be an involuntary response, but blinking moistens the eyes, which can relieve some of the discomfort from dry eyes. If it is not enough, you can also invest in some eye drops to prevent dry/red eyes and alleviate some irritation.
- Change your position of viewing. Ideally, you ought to be 20-28 inches away from your screen to decrease strain. It should also be angled slightly below eye level to decrease neck pain caused by looking from the screen to the keyboard and back again when typing.
- Take breaks. Look away from the screen for roughly 20 second intervals every 20 minutes. Giving your eyes a break from the concentrated focus can lessen the impact of working in front of a computer screen all day.
- Adjust your screen settings. Changing the brightness, contrast, or fonts to suit your eyes can work wonders. Having too small a font, for instance, can wither away at your eyes over time. Dim or brighten the screen depending on how it interacts with your workplace environment, but make it easiest on your eyes.
- Change the environment if you can. Try to work in a moderately lighted room. You want to avoid windows or lighting that is too bright. Either of these issues can create a glare and distorted reflections or make it difficult to focus your eyes properly. If you are unable to improve your environment, just refer to number 6 and adjust your screen.
- Seek occupational eyewear. Even if you already have a prescription, it may not be enough to compensate for the eye strain of too much computer use. During an eye exam, discuss the matter with your optometrist to see if it may be a good option for you.
CVS is a number of avoidable inconveniences to your eyes. Do what you can to prevent it today!