Are computers hard on your eyes?

In this day in age, most people would not be able to function efficiently without the
knowledge of how to use a computer. Computers are part of our lives now; from our jobs
to our hobbies, to even finding a restaurant for date night. The growing use of computers
in the home and office comes with an increase in health risks, especially for the eyes. One
eye problem, called Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), afflicts more and more people
who find themselves continually in front of computer screens, tablets, or e-readers. There
has yet to be any documented permanent damage to the visual system, however the
effects can last well after computer use stops, up to 5-8 hours.

In this day in age, most people would not be able to function efficiently without the
knowledge of how to use a computer. Computers are part of our lives now; from our jobs
to our hobbies, to even finding a restaurant for date night. The growing use of computers
in the home and office comes with an increase in health risks, especially for the eyes. One
eye problem, called Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), afflicts more and more people
who find themselves continually in front of computer screens, tablets, or e-readers. There
has yet to be any documented permanent damage to the visual system, however the
effects can last well after computer use stops, up to 5-8 hours.

The most common symptoms of CVS include:

  • Blurred vision and/or eyestrain
    • Blurred vision may occur not only during computer work, but more
      commonly up to many hours after stopping computer use. The reason is
      the eye muscles can become “locked” due to continued focus at a specific
      working distance, i.e. the computer. When this happens, the muscles begin
      to spasm, which creates a temporary blur in distance vision.
  • Dry eyes (watery, burning, and gritty sensations)
  • Headaches
  • Neck and shoulder pain

These symptoms are usually caused by:

  • Incorrect glasses or contact lens prescriptions
  • Poor lighting/glare from the computer screen
  • Improper viewing distance from the computer
  • Poor seating postures
  • Environmental conditions of the workspace (air vent blowing, low humidity)

How is CVS diagnosed? Your optometrist will be able to diagnose the condition through
a comprehensive eye examination. Testing, with special emphasis on visual requirements
at your specific computer working distance, may include: a good history, visual acuities,
a refraction to determine appropriate lens power, and testing to asses how the eyes are
working together and focusing at your specific computer viewing distance.

Ways to trouble shoot causes of CVS:

    • Incorrect glasses or contact lens prescriptions
      • 71 % of patients who have CVS, wear either glasses or contact lenses
      • Eyeglasses wearers:
        • Make sure your glasses sit properly on your face; get your frames
          professionals adjusted so the center of the lens bisects the center of
          your pupil to optimize your vision
        • The addition of anti-reflecting coating (AR) on the lenses of your
          glasses will greatly reduce the percentage of glare entering your
          visual system.
      • Contact lens wearers:
        • Remember to blink while staring at the computer, this seems
          simple but it is very hard to do. Computer use decreases blinking
          to almost 1/3 of the normal blinking rate.
        • Straight ahead gaze to the center of the computer screen exposes
          your eyes to more air; adjust the screen lower.
        • Frequent use of artificial tears to lubricate the eyes (talk to your
          optometrist to determine which brand is appropriate for your eyes
          and contact lenses material).
      • Poor lighting/glare from the computer screen
        • Reduce glare and harsh reflections by modifying the lighting in the room;
          close window shades, optimize the brightness or contrast of the computer
          screen, or attach a filter to the monitor. This will help your eyes focus
          better and minimize the need to squint.

          • Conduct the “visor test” to see if you need to make the above
            modifications. Cup your hands over your eyes, like a baseball cap,
            and look at the monitor. This will block all surrounding light. If
            you notice an improvement, then lighting changes should be made.
      • Improper viewing distance from the computer
        • The screen should be at or just beyond arm’s length away (about 20 to
          26 inches) and directly in front of your face. Then center of the monitor
          should be lower than your eyes (about 4 to 8 inches) to allow your neck to
          relax. When looking slightly down at the computer, this will also increase
          your blink rate and more lid will be covering your eye more so dry eye
          symptoms will be reduced.
        • Place your reference materials as close to the monitor as possible. This
          will lessen neck movements and decrease the need for your eyes to have to
          re-focus on the materials if they are at a similar viewing distance as your
          screen.
      • Poor seating postures
        • Adjust the height of the chair so your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle,
          with your feet flat on the floor. Sit straight against a back rest, with your
          forearms on the armrest, bent at a 90-degree angle.
        • The keyboard and mouse should be located below your elbow, within easy
          reach of our hands.
      • Environmental conditions of the workspace (air vent blowing, low humidity)
        • Keep all air vents and drafts from blowing on your face and eyes during
          your work day.
        • Low humidity rooms, along with dusty areas, can dry your eyes

References:

American Optometric Association http://www.aoa.org/x5253.xml
Penn Medicine http://www.pennmedicine.org/ophth/conditions/cvs.html
MD support http://www.mdsupport.org/library/cvs.html

Posted in Eye Care
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