While health experts recommend limiting computer time to two or fewer hours a day, most jobs have Americans staring at a screen five to seven hours a day, and that doesn’t include leisure activites like video games or watching movies. It’s not surprising our bodies are beginning to suffer. Our eyes are no exception. Computer Vision Syndrome, a group of eye and vision-related problems, is the result of extended computer use. Although quitting your desk job may not be an option, there are simple measures you can take to alleviate CVS symptoms.
Our eyes are open and working all day long. You might ask what difference does it make if you’re looking at one thing or another? The truth is, viewing a computer screen places incredible demands on the visual system; much more so than a printed page. The lack of definition of the letters on the screen, the reduced level of contrast, and the reflections on the glass all make viewing more difficult. And most people do not have perfect posture when viewing a screen, which creates tension in the back and neck. If you have a minor uncorrected vision problem, it can be even more challenging when looking at a computer screen and can put you at even greater risk of Computer Vision Syndrome.
Most symptoms of CVS are only temporary and will decline after stopping computer work. However, some people experience symptoms long after they’ve discontinued use. The most common symptoms of CVS include:
- Blurry vision
- Dry eyes
- Neck and shoulder pain
If you suspect you might have Computer Vision Syndrome, an eye doctor can test you through series of tests with emphasis on computer viewing distance requirements. He or she will ask you about your history, do refraction tests to determine if you are nearsighted, farsighted, or have astigmatism, and investigate how your eyes focus, move and work together.
Depending on your specific needs, your eye doctor may recommend computer glasses that are designed to meet the demands of computer viewing, vision therapy if any eye focusing or coordination problems were detected, and/or ergonomic changes to the work space. Everyone can benefit from better work positioning and viewing habits: putting the screen 4 to 5 inches below eye level and 20 to 28 inches from the eye, sitting so that your feet touch the floor, and taking breaks can go a long way to preventing CVS symptoms. Be sure to rest your eyes for 15 minutes for every two hours of computer work. Also remember the 20–20–20 rule: 20-second breaks every 20 minutes look at an object 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. For a more in depth look at how to relieve CVS symptoms, read our December 19 post Computer Vision Syndrome.