If you’re like most of my patients over 40, you spend a good deal of time at your computer every day. Let’s face it, the workings of our modern world, the flow of information, is dependent on computers and you likely have to spend some part of your day using one. Perhaps your job requires you to spend 8 or more hours a day in front of it, or maybe you only use your computer a shorter amount of time a day checking emails, paying bills, staying connected to friends or family on social media or just looking up information.
However long you use your computer, like my patients, you may have experienced symptoms of computer vision syndrome – an annoying set of symptoms that affects 90% of people who use their computer 3 or more hours per day. Since I frequently hear complaints from patients about the symptoms of computer vision, I’d also like to share with you how you can relieve the temporary symptoms of computer vision and allow more comfortable use of your computer.
What Is Computer Vision?
Computer vision syndrome, or CVS, is a cluster of temporary symptoms experienced by people who use their computers on a daily basis for several hours at a time. These symptoms can be further aggravated by bright lighting that creates glare on the computer screen (like overhead fluorescent lighting in offices) or air rushing past the eyes that might occur from an overhead AC or heat vent or desk top fan. These symptoms can include the following:
- Dry eyes
- Blurry vision
- Double vision
- Difficulty refocusing
- Eye muscle twitching
How Can You Relieve Computer Vision?
Dry eyes are probably the #1 complaint of patients who use their computer and is usually the cause of redness of the eyes as well. This dryness is caused by the fact that you blink less while working on a computer. Here’s what helps:
- Reminding yourself to blink while working on your computer.
- Using eye lubrication drops (like artificial tears) to prevent dryness.
- Add Omega-3 fats to your diet, at least 1,000 mg a day, to help lubricate older eyes.
Some suggestions to alleviate other common symptoms of computer vision are:
Blurry/double vision: The second most common complaint I hear from my patients involves blurring or double vision changes. These can be caused by trying to focus on reading in a field that has a constant moving flicker in it. Older cathode ray catheter monitor have a flicker that can easily be seen around the edges of the monitor and contributes to eyestrain. Flat screen liquid crystal monitors are much smoother and easier on the eyes. Here’s what helps:
- “20/20/20” rule: Every 20 minutes of computer work, focus your vision on something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- Computer glasses: These are special glasses to be used for computer use only and greatly help people who wear contact lenses and/or bifocal lens glasses. These can be somewhat expensive. However, studies show greater productivity of workers using them. In addition, over-the-counter reading glasses with a correction of between +1.00 and +1.50 can also help clarify print much better and decrease strain.
- Adjust View Size: Your computer allows you to enlarge the size of print displayed. This option usually runs across the top of your toolbar. Text reading size should be 3 times larger than the smallest text you can read comfortably from your position. Or, select whatever magnification allows you to read print more clearly without straining.
- Adjust Refresh Rate: Eye strain issues are more likely if your monitor refresh rate is 75 Hz or less. Set yours for the highest refresh rate.
- Adjust Resolution: Related to the “dot pitch” of the display, be sure resolution is less than 0.28 dot pitch or less.
- Choose larger screen size: Larger display screens also help. Try to get at least a 19” screen size at least for home use if you cannot change your work computer screen size.
- Adjust brightness: Adjust amount of light in your screen with the brightness dial on your monitor. Too dark as well as too light can cause strain.
Difficulty refocusing: Take frequent screen breaks every 20 minutes and look out either a window or somewhere else in the room. Or simply close your eyes for 30 seconds. This rests the muscles of the eye and can help prevent/relieve eye twitching from constant tension.
Headache: Usually caused by monitor glare from surrounding bright light sources like overhead fluorescents or even bright sunlight from a window. Can be prevented by removing the glaring light source. Move your computer to a darker area, with darker walls (light bounces off light walls) so that surrounding lighting is to the side of your computer, rather than in front or behind it, and does not shine into your eyes.
As I tell my patients, in our modern computer-run world, I’m afraid that computer vision syndrome is here to stay. However, in addition to the above recommendations, observe good eye nutrition and vision protection in general. Be sure your diet also includes 5,000 mg of beta carotene a day, as well as lutein, zeaxanthin, and bilberry to boost clear vision. Also, drink enough water for your body weight and protect your eyes from bright sunlight with sunglasses to further strengthen your eyes and combat computer vision.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Computer Vision Syndrome, http://www.allaboutvision.com/cvs/
Computer Vision Syndrome, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_vision_syndrome
Photo Credit: www.fnal.gov