If you’re like many of my patients, perhaps your job requires you to spend a great deal of time in front of a computer every day. If so, you’ve likely experienced a form of eyestrain associated with prolonged computer use called computer vision syndrome. I’d like to talk to you about some ways you can reduce, or even eliminate, the symptoms of this common condition.
Facts About Computer Vision Syndrome
The American Optometric Association reports that 70-75% of Americans who spend a lot of time in front of a computer have computer vision syndrome! That’s right. Most people, however, do not attribute the symptoms of this condition to computer use. They include:
➢ Eye strain
➢ Blurred vision
➢ Shoulder and neck pain
Your eyes do not respond to reading print on a computer screen the same way they do reading printed material from, say, a newspaper or magazine. That’s because words in printed material stand out from their background much more distinctly than words that appear on a lighted computer screen. With the glare that comes from the lighted computer monitor screen, your eyes constantly have to focus thousands of times trying to read computer screen text.
Also, you blink less often reading computer text than regular text, in fact 5 times less, and this causes the eye to become dry and irritated. In addition, the eye muscles become overworked and that’s where all the strain, headaches, and neck pain comes from. Standard vision tests fail to properly diagnose computer vision syndrome because they only show how well characters are seen up close and far away. Computer vision syndrome falls somewhere in the middle.
Can You Remedy Computer Vision Syndrome?
The question most frequently asked by my patients when we discuss their eyestrain is, “how can I avoid this condition if I have to work all day on a computer?” Unfortunately, you can’t completely avoid the eyestrain symptoms of working on a computer all day. However, you can do several things to prevent, or ease, some of the symptoms.
➢ Adjust room lighting/screen lighting: Room lighting should be about the same or slightly darker/dimmer than your computer screen. Working in an overhead-lit room with fluorescent lighting will aggravate symptoms significantly. If possible, try to reduce the brightness of overhead lighting.
➢ Computer ergonomics: Position your screen so it is at or slightly below eye level. Position the screen so that it does not reflect outside light or overhead light. Position monitor close enough so you can read text without having to lean forward into it.
➢ Blink frequently: You will likely have to remember to blink more often while working on your computer. Some eye lubricant like Artificial Tears can help alleviate irritation.
➢ Eye Exam: It can help to get a complete eye exam, and if necessary, a prescription for computer glasses than are specifically designed to prevent computer vision syndrome.
➢ Replace your monitor: Old, CRT (cathode ray terminal) monitors give off a lot of glare. Get a new, LCD (liquid crystal display) to help avoid eyestrain.
➢ Exercise your eyes: To reduce “focus fatigue”, these simple and quick exercises can help reduce spasms of the muscles around the eyes. A. 20-20-20. Look away from your computer every 20 minutes at something about 20 feet away, for 20 seconds. B. 10-10’s. Alternative looking at something distant, and something close up for 10 seconds each, repeated 10 times. Blink frequently during the exercises to lubricate the eye.
➢ Take a Break: Take more frequent mini breaks throughout the day where you get up and move away from the computer screen. Walk to the restroom, break room, or get some water.
➢ Hydrate: As always, drink adequate amounts of water, at least one gallon a day, more if you are sweating a lot. Eye tissues are predominantly water. If you become dehydrated so do your eyes.
➢ Supplements: Be sure you are getting enough eye healthy vitamins like beta-carotene, antioxidants C, E, selenium, bilberry, lutein and zeaxanthin either from the food you eat or additional supplements.
In these days of computer-dominated workdays, social media and the Internet, many of us spend an inordinate amount of time in front of a computer screen. Our eyes may be paying the ultimate price for all our computer savvy technologies, however.
To minimize and/or alleviate the symptoms of computer vision syndrome, give your eyes a break from your computer at regular intervals. As I tell my patients, try to use weekends as computer rest time and go without any computer screen usage to rest your eyes completely. Follow at least some of the recommendations above so that your eyes will stay healthy and your vision good long into your golden years!
Photo Credit: Ambro