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CVS (Computer Vision Syndrome): How to alleviate this “Technological Malady”

June 25th, 2013

Portrait of senior woman attending computing training According to a 2012 Survey done by The Vision Council almost 70 percent of U.S adults experience some sort of digital eye strain while using their computers and other electronic devices such as smart phones and tablets.

For many of us computers and smart phones have become an essential part of both our working and our leisure time.   Studies have shown that computer eye strain has become a extremely common job-related complaint.  In fact 50 to 90 percent of people that work with computers regularly have problems with eye strain and other visual symptoms. These symptoms can include fatigue, decreased productivity, headaches , work related errors as well as redness and twitching of the eyes.

Here are a few tips on what we can do to help offset the effect computer use has on our eyes.:

1.  See your ophthalmologist for a comprehensive eye eamination.

Having regular eye examinations is one of the most important preventative measures for CVS.  According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health,  those of us who use a computer regularly and/or for work should have a complete eye examination on a yearly basis.  It is important to provide your doctor with an estimate of the amount of time you spend on a computer both at work and at home and to provide a measurement of how far your eyes are from your screen so that you can be tested at this specific working distance.

2. Reduce reflection/glare and use proper lighting.

Glare comimg of walls in your office, as well as reflections from your computer screen also contribute to problems with eye strain.  One option is to install an anti-glare screen on your monitor.  Another would be to paint the walls of your office a darker color that has a matte rather than a gloss finish.

If you wear glasses you might consider purchasing glasses with anti-reflective coating, which helps to reduce glare by minimizing the amount of light relecting off the front and back surfaces of your eyeglass lenses.

Excessive and/or harsh bright light can also contribute to your eye strain symptoms.  You may notice less eye strain if you  can avoid working under overhead fluorescent lights.  Using floorlamps with indirect incandescent or halogen lighting is a good alternative.  Switching to full spectrum fluorescent lights that more closely mimick the light spectrum from sunlight is also a good choice but keep in mind that these too can cause eye discomfort if they are too bright.  If possible, place your monitor/screen so that windows are not in front  or beside it and if this is the case and repositioning isn’t possible closing the blinds etc will help.

3. Upgrade your monitor

LCD screens have proven to be easier on the eyes  and usually come with an anti-reflective surface.  When deciding on what type of LCD screen to purchase choose one with the highest resoltuon possible.  Resolution is related to the “dot pitch” of the display with a lower “dot pitch” producing a sharper image.    A larger screen of at least 19 inches (diagnally) is recommended for a desktop computer.

4. Adusting your screen display settings.

  • the brightness of display should be about the same as the brightness of your surroundings.  For instance, if you look at the white background of a web page and it looks like a light source it is too bright and conversely if it appears dull and gray it is too dark.
  • The size of the text should be adjusted according to what is comfortable for you visually.  You shouldn’t have to squint or move the screen to be able to easily read the words.  Black print on a muted white background is believed to be the best combination for comfort. According to Dr. James Sheedy, an expert in Computer Vision Syndrome, text size should be three times the smallest size that you can read from your normal viewing position.

5. Blink more often.

Blinking is extremely important when working at a computer.  Blinking moistens your eyes and helps to prevent dryness and irrtiation.  Studies have shown that people working on computers blink less often – about one third as often as they do normally.  Many blinks performed while working on a computer are only partial lid closures.  The air in many environments we work in is dry and this combined with a reduction in blinking puts us at greater risk of developing dry eye problems.  The use of artifical tears can help to alleviate dryness and irritation.

6. Exercise your eyes.

Focusing fatigue is another contributor to eye strain. Prolonged staring at your computer screen can actually cause what is know as accomdative spasm, which is a condition where your focusing ability locks up after prolonged computer woerk.   A good rule of thumb is what some doctors call the “20-20-20 rule” where every 20 minutes you look away from your screen and focus on a distant object (at least 20 feet away) for a least 20 seconds.  This aids in relaxing the focusing muscles inside the eye and reduces fatigue.

7. Take frequent breaks.

Most workers take only two fifteen minute breaks away from their computer during their work day.  According to a recent NIOSH ( National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health) study taking four additional five minute breaks did not reduce worker’s productivity but in fact  actually increased data entry speed!

Yes, technology is advancing and computers, for most of us, are an extension of our workplace and leisure activity.  Our eyes are showing signs of fatigue and irritation from prolonged visual participation with our devices.  The importance of structuring the way we use these devices and making adjustments to improve our visual experience and it’s effect on our eyes is essential to  insuring  that our relationship with this electronic world continues to be a harmonious and healthy one.

For  some interesting statistics on how computers  and other electronic devices affect our eyes watch the video below:

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