Understanding Computer Vision Syndrome

Understanding Computer Vision Syndrome

Computer vision syndrome (CVS) was not known or understood, however, there has been an increase in the role of computers in our lives just a few decades ago. Researchers believe that 50-90% of people who use computers in their daily lives have experienced CVS to some degree. The amount of time that many people stare into a computer screen is increasing, which puts significant strain on our eyes.

CVS is not considered a single specific problem, but a suite of issues. And with the increased use of school computers, tablets and smartphones, children are also becoming more susceptible to CVS.

This syndrome is similar to many other repetitive motion type conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Problems can start because as we are reading text on a screen, our eyes move in a repetitive motion throughout the day. Once the issue has started, continuing the same behavior can worsen any symptoms. While reading alone uses the same motion, digital screens add flicker, contrast, glare, and light that all put additional strain on our eyes.

Issues may also be accelerated if you should be wearing some type of corrective lens, but don't, and are therefore putting additional strain on your eyes. Aging can also speed up the progress of these issues. Around the time that people turn 40, the lenses of the eyes begin to harden due to a disease called presbyopia, which affects your ability to see closer objects.

Computer eye strain has become a major complaint. These problems can range from fatigue, headaches, neck and backaches, dry eyes, decreased productivity, increased errors, eye twitching, and red eyes. Here are some easy steps you can take to reduce your risk of computer eye strain and other symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS):

1. Get a comprehensive eye exam.
Having a routine comprehensive eye exam is the most important thing you can do to prevent or treat computer vision problems. This will provide an updated, accurate prescription. This will also assess how your eyes work together. 

2. Adjust your computer display settings. 
Adjusting the display settings of your computer can help reduce eye strain and fatigue. Generally, these adjustments are beneficial: Adjust the brightness of the display so it's approximately the same as the brightness of your surrounding workstation or less. As a test, look at the white background of a Web page. If it looks like a light source, it's too bright. If it seems dull and gray, it may be too dark. Adjust the text size and contrast for comfort, especially when reading or composing long documents. Usually, black print on a white background or white print on a black background is the best combination for comfort. Text size should be three times the smallest size that you can read from your normal viewing position. Reducing the color temperature of your display and making it more warm lowers the amount of blue light emitted for better long-term viewing comfort. 

3. Minimize glare. 
Reflections on your computer screen also can cause computer eye strain. Consider installing an anti-glare screen on your monitor. If you wear glasses, purchase lenses with anti-reflective coating and blue-light protection to reduce glare by minimizing the amount of light reflecting off the front and back surfaces of your eye glasses. 

4. Upgrade your display. 
If you have not already done so, update your screen to an LCD screen, which are easier on the eyes. When choosing a new flat panel display, select a screen with the highest resolution possible. Choose a display with a dot pitch of .28 mm or smaller to get the sharpest images. Finally, choose a relatively large display. For a desktop computer, select a display that has a diagonal screen size of at least 19 inches. 

5. Use proper lighting. 
Eye strain often is caused by harsh interior lighting. When you use a computer, your ambient lighting should be about half as bright as that typically found in most offices. If possible, position your computer monitor or screen so windows are to the side of your computer. 

6. Prevent dry eyes. 
Blinking is very important when working at a computer; blinking moistens your eyes to prevent dryness and irritation. When working at a computer, people blink less frequently -- about one-third as often as they normally do -- and many blinks performed during computer work are only partial lid closures, according to studies. Also, dry air can increase how quickly your tears evaporate. To reduce your risk of dry eyes during computer use, try this exercise: Every 20 minutes, blink 10 times by closing your eyes as if falling asleep (very slowly). Then blink as forcefully as possible 10 times. This will help re-wet your eyes. Using eye drops can also help. Use a lubricating eye drop like Refresh Optive Advanced Preservative-Free, as much as needed. 

7. Relieve focusing and take breaks. 
Another cause of computer eye strain is focusing fatigue. To reduce your risk of tiring your eyes by constantly focusing on your screen, look away from your computer at least every 20 minutes and gaze at a distant object (at least 20 feet away) for at least 20 seconds. Some eye doctors call this the "20-20-20 rule." Looking far away relaxes the focusing muscle inside the eye to reduce fatigue. This reduces the risk of your eyes' focusing ability to "lock-up" after prolonged computer work. During your computer breaks, stand up, move about, and stretch your arms, legs, back, neck and shoulders to reduce tension and muscle fatigue in your body. 

8. Modify your workstation. 
If you need to look back and forth between a printed page and your computer screen, this can cause eye strain. Place written pages on a copy stand adjacent to the monitor. Light the copy stand properly. You may want to use a desk lamp, but make sure it doesn't shine into your eyes or onto your computer screen. Purchase ergonomic furniture to enable you to position your computer screen 20 to 24 inches from your eyes. Also, work with the top of your computer screen at eye level. This will allow you to look down at the center of the computer screen at a 20 to 30-degree angle. This is relaxing for your exterior eye muscles. 

9. Consider computer specific eyewear.
For the greatest comfort at your computer, you might benefit from having your eyeglass prescription modified to create customized computer glasses. Computer glasses also are a good choice if you wear bifocals or progressive lenses because these lenses generally are not optimal for the distance to your computer screen. Computer glasses offer a wider field of view and more comfortable eye positioning. Also, you may want to consider lenses that provide blue light protection to reduce your exposure to blue light emitted by digital devices. 

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