Just a few decades ago, Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) was not known or understood. However, with an increase in the role of computers in our lives, it has become an increasingly common issue. 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 at a computer screen is increasing, which puts significant strain on our eyes.
CVS is not considered a single specific problem, but a combination of issues. And with the increased use of school computers, tablets and smartphones, children are also now susceptible to CVS.
CVS is similar to many other repetitive motion-type conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Problems start because our eye muscles have to contract and stay contracted when we are looking at anything close such as reading text on a screen. In addition to the muscle strain, the blue light emitted from computer or other digital devices scatters light creating difficulty focusing and eyestrain. Once the issue has started, continuing the same behavior can worsen any symptoms. While reading books or text on paper causes similar eyestrain, digital screens add flicker, contrast, glare, and blue light blur that all put additional strain on our eyes.
Issues may also be accelerated if you are not wearing the correct type of corrective lenses and if you focus on your computer or digital device for excessive amounts of time. Aging can also play a part in these issues. Soon after our teen years, the lenses of our eyes begin to harden due to natural aging of the lens. This is called presbyopia and it affects our ability to see up close.
There is currently no proof that CVS causes long-term vision impairment or blindness. However studies do show that CVS can lead to increasing nearsightedness (distance blur) or myopia. Excessive use of a computer or any other type of screen can continue to be an annoyance, but are often a majority of a person's job and cannot be avoided. So measures must be taken to reduce the eyestrain caused by CVS. Some of the warning signs of CVS are:
Red or dry eyes
If you don’t properly treat CVS when these symptoms occur, you may begin to notice that you suffer from a decrease in distance vision, overall quality of life and/or job performance.
Fortunately, CVS can usually be treated with just a few small things:
Reduce Glare – It’s essential to reduce the amount of glare that comes off your computer screen as the glare adds additional strain on your eyes. You can reduce the glare by changing the angle of your computer screen so that it doesn’t reflect light back to your eye. You could also install a dimmer switch and reduce the brightness of the lighting behind you or install a glare filter that goes over the top of your screen.
Move Your Desk – For an average sized screen, your ideal monitor position is 4-5 inches below your eye level and approximately 20-28 inches away from your eyes. You shouldn’t have to change your head position or strain your neck to read what is on your screen. If you work with printed materials, put a stand next to your monitor to keep everything at the same height. Larger monitors can be pushed farther away reducing eyestrain.
Change Your Settings – Simply changing the settings of your screen can result in a significant reduction to your eye strain. You can adjust the brightness, contrast, color and even change the font size to make things easier for you to see.
Take Breaks – Your breaks don’t have to take up much time. The American Optometric Association recommends using the 20/20/20 rule. This rule simply states that every 20 minutes (3 times an hour) you should look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. If that frequency is too often for you, try taking a break every 30 minutes (twice an hour) and looking 20 feet or father for 2-5 minutes. Additionally, if you feel that your eyes are still straining, it’s a good idea to get away from your screen for a few minutes as often as you can.
Computer/Digital Device/Near Work Prescription Glasses– Reducing the amount of work your eyes must do to see is always a good idea. Making sure that you have prescription, ophthalmic quality blue light-blocking glasses, that are custom designed to balance your eyes together and focus your vision for your specifice near working distance, helps to reduce eyestrain.