Computer Eye Strain

eye_strain-01It’s a sign of the times. We are spending more and more time with our eyes focused on a screen in front of us. Whether we are avid Facebookers or tweet constantly on our phones or even just spend all day at work in front of a computer monitor, our eyes are constantly getting a work out. Heck, you’re even reading this right now on some kind of digital device.

If you find yourself in front of a computer all day long and suffer from any of these symptoms:

  • eyestrain
  • headaches
  • blurred vision
  • dry eyes
  • neck or shoulder pain

you could be experiencing Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). It is a real thing. 50-90% of people who work at a computer have symptoms.

Computer Vision Syndrome is difficult for adults who have to sit in front of a computer for work, but now as schools are replacing text books with digital media, CVS is quickly becoming more prevalent with school-aged children.

Similar to carpal tunnel syndrome in which the muscles of the wrists become stressed because of repetitive movement, muscles of the eyes fatigue after doing the same thing over and over. Add to that the other problems that come with digital visual stimulation such as screen/light contrast, flicker and glare. This can all result in further stress on the eyes which is even more bothersome when a vision problem like near or farsightedness is already present.

What can you do?

1. Like Oprah, it’s all about the proper lighting. A too-bright office could be a culprit. The contrast between your overhead florescent lighting and your monitor could be causing your eyes additional stress. Your ambient lighting should be about half of what it is in a typical office. Consider drawing the blinds and adding floor lamps instead of the stark overhead fixtures.

Another source of stress for your eyes is the light coming from your office windows. Consider placing your monitor to the side of windows instead of having the window in front of you or behind you.

Glare on walls can cause additional eye strain. Consider painting the walls a darker, matte color to reduce glare.

2. Adjust your monitor settings. The brightness of your display should be the same as the rest of your work station, and you should adjust the text display so you can comfortably see it. On PCs you can do this in the Control Panel. On Macs, you can go to System Preferences for more information.

3. Break out the ruler and protractor. Your computer screen should be approximately 20-24 inches from your eyes, with the center of the screen 10-15º below your eyes.

4. Blink More. The simple act of blinking helps to naturally moisten your eyes. You could also consider lubricating drops as a way to refresh the eye. There is a difference however between lubricating drops and redness-removing drops. Redness-removing drops are not formulated to moisten your eyes and can actually make the problem worse.

5. You deserve a break. Many experts (myself included) recommend the 20-20-20 rule. Take a 20 second break every 20 minutes by looking at an object 20 feet away. This will help give your eyes a break and stop your focus from “locking up”.

Of course if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome, bring them up with your optometrist. He or she can make some additional recommendations, including prescribing specific glare-reducing lenses if you wear glasses or contact lenses that are specifically made for heavy computer users.