May 3, 2022
How many hours each day do you usually spend looking at a computer screen or another digital device? It’s almost certainly more than you realize, particularly if you are working from home, or you enjoy a hobby like gaming. Unfortunately, research has proven that sitting in front a screen for prolonged periods of time simply isn’t good for our vision or our eye health. In fact, many people who do go on to develop a condition called computer vision syndrome.
Computer vision syndrome refers to a set of symptoms that are characteristic of prolonged digital screen viewing. Although it doesn’t cause permanent vison problems, the symptoms can be painful and debilitating, and get progressively worse if you don’t make adjustments to your digital device use.
These symptoms develop for several reasons.
Screen distance. When you use a computer or laptop, your screen will probably sit anywhere from 17 to 22 inches from your face. If you wear glasses or contact lenses because you are near or far sighted, your vision will be corrected for the type of refractive error that you have, and not for this intermediate distance. This means your eyes will have to work harder to see the content on the screen clearly, especially if you are switching between looking at papers on your desk and your computer screen.
Screen brightness. How bright your screen is and if there is any glare from nearby light will also cause eye strain that can result in the symptoms of computer vision syndrome.
Poor posture. Despite not directly involving our eyes, poor posture is a key contributor to the development of computer vision syndrome. This is because when you have poor posture, you will view your screen from a less-than-perfect angle. This can put strain on your eye muscles too.
There are a wide range of symptoms associated with computer vision syndrome. These include, but are not limited to:
In most cases, these symptoms are temporary and will start to ease once you reduce or stop using your digital device. However, sometimes the symptoms persist for longer. They may occur alone, or in combination with one another. Many patients will have two, three or more of the symptoms listed.
Your eye doctor can usually diagnose computer vision syndrome by conducting an eye exam to see how your eyes work and respond at an intermediate distance, and by talking to you about your symptoms, your digital device use and your lifestyle.
The most effective way to reduce the effects of computer vision syndrome is to take regular breaks from the screen to let your eyes relax and your focus adjust. Nevertheless, this isn’t always possible when your work requires you to spend time on digital devices. Here are some other techniques which can help:
20/20/20 rule: every 20 minutes, you look at something that is at least 20 feet away from you for a minimum of 20 seconds.
Enlarge the text on your screen: this will make it easier for you to read without straining your eyes.
Alter your workspace: the optimal workstation has a screen that is around 20-28 inches from your eyes and sits so that the center of it is around 4 to 5 inches below eye level.
Adjust your posture: your feet should be flat on the floor, with your back supported so that your posture is straight, rather than hunched or slumped.
Invest in a screen glare filter: these are positioned over the top of your screen and reduce glare from natural light or artificial light sources.
Blink frequently: research shows that we blink much less when we are using digital devices. Remembering to blink as often as you can during the day as this help keep your eyes hydrated and comfortable.
Consider computer vision glasses: these are special glasses that have lenses that are specifically designed to help you see clearly at an intermediate distance, making them ideal for computer work.
Visit your eye doctor regularly: uncorrected vision problems are a major cause of computer vision syndrome. Regular visits to your eye doctor will help ensure that you don’t need glasses or contact lenses, or that you are wearing the right prescription.
If you think that you may be affected by computer vision syndrome, call Eye Associates of New York at (212) 650-4888 to reach our office in New York, New York.