Many jobs require us to sit in front of a computer screen for a large portion of the day. We also spend a good deal of our free time looking at screens on our mobile devices. This puts a significant strain on our eyes.
Eye problems induced by frequent computer use are generally grouped under the heading computer vision syndrome or CVS. Computer vision syndrome does not define a single problem. Instead, it entails a wide range of discomfort and strain put on your eyes from computer use.
Research has shown that more than 50% of people who work at a computer screen exhibit at least some symptoms.
And today it is not just working adults. Children are using computers and tablets from a young age in school and can experience symptoms of CVS.
Why Do Computers Affect Your Vision?
CVS is not too different from other repetitive motion injuries you might experience, such as carpal tunnel syndrome from using a mouse and keyboard frequently or back inflammation from repetitive lifting on an assembly line.
Working in front of a computer for long hours, your eyes are following the same path over and over. Your eyes also are forced to refocus all the time. You might look at your screen, then at a document on your desk, and then back to the computer screen to enter information over and over again throughout the day.
Your eyes will also be forced to react to images constantly moving and changing. Think of all those websites you visit with a slider of images in the header or videos.
Your eye muscles put in a lot of work to constantly be shifting focus and sending these images to your brain.
You might wonder why you can read a book for hours and not experience any eye strain but feel discomfort after sitting at the computer for an hour. Unlike a book, computer screens add contrast, may flicker, and emit glare. Studies have also shown that we tend to blink much less often when using a computer. Blinking less frequently will cause your eyes to dry out and can blur your vision.
Symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome
Computer vision syndrome may present itself as:
- Dry eyes
- Eye irritation
- Blurred vision
- Double vision
- Neck or back pain
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, the first thing you should be aware of is that at this time there is no evidence that computer use can cause any long-term damage to the eyes. You do not have to worry that you need to change careers or risk eye damage down the road.
Second, there are things you can do to minimize the eye strain and discomfort you are experiencing.
Move your monitor. The ideal position for your monitor is slightly below eye level and about 22-28 inches from your face. You should not need to strain your eyes or adjust your neck to see what is on the screen.
If you frequently have to enter in information from documents on the computer, get a stand to put next to the monitor or one that attaches to the monitor to hold your printed material. That way you do not constantly need to go back and forth from looking down at your desk and back up at your monitor.
Take breaks. Look away from your monitor every 20 minutes. Focus on something that is about 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This is known as the 20-20-20 rule.
Remind yourself to blink. As mentioned above, we tend to blink less often when working at a computer. Blinking will help to keep your eyes moist. You can also try some eye drops.
Reduce glare. You can purchase glare filters for monitors. They work extremely well. If a nearby light or window is casting a glare on your monitor, move. Rearrange your desk or monitor position to reduce the glare.
Visit your eye doctor. Your more likely to experience CVS if you already have vision problems. If you need glasses or contacts but don’t have them or have the wrong prescription this can compound the discomfort you feel. If you have not been in for an eye exam recently, schedule one today.