Are You Suffering From Computer Vision Syndrome?

Computer Vision Syndrome, also referred to as digital eye strain, describes a group of eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer, tablet, e-reader and cell phone use. Many individuals experience eye discomfort and vision problems when viewing digital screens for extended periods. The level of discomfort appears to increase with the amount of digital screen use.

What Causes Computer Vision Syndrome?

Take a look at your computer monitor. Is it below eye level? Is it properly angled and adjusted to minimize glare? Are you sitting in an ergonomically-correct position, with your back straight and eyes about 25 inches from the screen? If you answered "no" to any of these questions, you could be setting yourself up for some serious health problems.

Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is a condition thought to affect more than 70 million Americans -- many of whom spend anywhere from five to nine hours each day working on a computer. And anyone who spends as much time looking at a monitor as we do is bound to suffer the consequences -- headaches, blurred vision, neck and back pain, irritated eyes, even double vision are all symptoms of CVS.

The good news is that there are steps you can take to prevent discomfort and avoid more serious injury due to Computer Vision Syndrome. The first step is to make sure your workstation is set up properly: your monitor should be no further than 28 inches away from your eyes and about four or five inches below eye level; the top of the monitor should be tilted slightly down toward you; the angle between your body and the screen should be less than 90 degrees; and you should use a glare filter over your monitor.

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As we focus on a computer screen, our eyes work harder than they do when we are performing other activities such as reading or driving. We tend to blink less when we view a computer screen for long periods of time. This causes our eyes to become dry and irritated. In addition, the amount of contrast between letters on a screen is less than the contrast between letters on paper. To compensate for this difference in contrast, our eyes must work harder to read letters on a screen than they do when reading letters on paper. This extra effort can cause eye strain over time.

What are the Symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome?

The most common symptoms of CVS are eyestrain, headaches and blurred vision. Other symptoms include dry eyes; irritated, itching or burning eyes; double vision; vertigo/dizziness; neck and shoulder pain; increased sensitivity to light; and difficulty refocusing.

Some symptoms of CVS include:

  • Eyestrain
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Dry eyes
  • Trouble sleeping.

Tips for reducing computer vision syndrome.

The first step to reducing computer vision syndrome is to make sure you have a comprehensive eye examination, so that if there are other issues contributing to your symptoms, they can be addressed. You may have a refractive error like nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism that can be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses. You may have an eye focusing problem or binocular vision disorder that can be improved with vision therapy. A comprehensive eye exam will determine whether these issues are contributing to your computer vision problems and if they are treatable.

Another important step in reducing computer vision symptoms is to make sure you're using proper ergonomics. If you're working at a desk, it's important to have good posture, making sure your neck is in line with the spine and your back is supported. Your computer screen should be about 20-26 inches from your eyes and 4-6 inches below eye level, so that you don't have to tilt your head up or down when working on the computer. Screen glare should also be reduced by using an anti-glare screen on your monitor and closing blinds or curtains during the day to reduce light from around you.

Not only do computers affect our vision, they also put strain on your body in other ways.

There are some simple steps you can take to combat eye strain caused by staring at a computer screen for long periods of time. 

Focus on the 20-20-20 rule - every 20 minutes look away from your computer screens and focus on something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.

Computer Vision Syndrome is at epidemic levels and it is affecting countless people every day. While some people are complaining of eye strain, headaches or extreme discomfort while using digital devices, many are living their lives in complete denial of the damage they are doing to themselves. We all have a responsibility to look after our personal health and wellbeing – and this needs to start by educating ourselves, putting good habits in place to protect ourselves and getting regular checks with an eye care professional.