Staring at a computer monitor for hours on end has become a part of the modern workday. And inevitably, all of that staring can put a real strain on your eyes.
The name for eye problems caused by computer use is computer vision syndrome (CVS). The term encompasses a whole range of eyestrain and pain experienced by computer users.
Research shows somewhere between 50% and 90% of people who work at a computer screen have at least some symptoms of eye trouble.
How Can the Computer Screen Affect Vision?
Computer vision syndrome is similar to other repetitive stress injuries at work. It occurs when you're carrying out the same motion over and over again. Computer vision syndrome can get worse the longer you continue the activity.
Working at a computer requires that the eyes continuously focus, move back and forth, and align with what you are seeing. The eyes have to accommodate to changing images on the screen in order to create a clear picture for the brain to interpret.
All of these functions require a lot of effort from eye muscles. Working on a computer is more challenging to your eyes than reading a book or piece of paper, because a computer screen also adds the elements of screen contrast, flicker, and glare.
What Symptoms Are Part of Computer Vision Syndrome?
If you have computer vision syndrome, you may experience some or all of these symptoms:
• Blurred vision
• Double vision
• Dry, red eyes
• Eye irritation
• Neck or back pain
Is There a Way to Relieve Computer Vision Syndrome?
Making a few simple changes in your work environment can help prevent and improve computer vision symptoms:
• Cut the glare. Change the lighting around you to reduce glare on the computer screen. Putting a glare filter over the screen monitor also can help protect your eyes.
• Rearrange your desk. Researchers find that the optimal position for your computer monitor is slightly below eye level, about 20 to 28 inches away from the face. At that position, you shouldn't have to stretch your neck or strain your eyes to see what's on the screen. Put a stand next to your computer monitor and place any printed materials you're working from on it. Then, you won't have to look up at the screen and back down at the desk while you type.
• Give your eyes a break. Look away from the screen every 20 minutes or so and either gaze out the window or scan the room for about 20 seconds to rest your eyes. Blink often to keep the eyes moist. If eyes are getting overly dry, try using lubricating eye drops.
• Tweak your computer settings. You don't have to live with the factory-installed settings on your computer if you're uncomfortable. Adjust the brightness, contrast, and font size until you find the best settings for your vision.