You've just arrived home from a busy work day. As usual, your eyes are red and blurry. You also feel the beginnings of a headache, so you just want to sit quietly for a few minutes with your eyes closed. Another normal day? Perhaps. But if you stare into a computer screen all day long, your symptoms might be hinting at more than simple fatigue. You may be dealing with Computer Vision Syndrome.
Computer Vision Syndrome: Facts and Symptoms More people than ever work with computers on a daily basis. Out of that group, the majority looks at a computer screen for at least 6 hours a day. At least 50% of those who regularly view a computer screen may experience some eye trouble. The problem of Computer Vision Syndrome is similar to other repetitive stress injuries. If a person repeats a certain action over and over, the muscles involved generally fatigue. Think carpal tunnel stress or 'tennis elbow.' In the case of Computer Vision Syndrome, or CVS, the repeated action is focusing continually on images from a bright screen near your face. Because your eyes have to accommodate for changing images on screen, they can fatigue easily. When you factor in colour, visual contrast, glare, and flickering images, the problem is compounded. Additionally, if you already have astigmatism or farsightedness, you may be more prone to eye fatigue from the start. Here are a few common symptoms of CVS:
Dry eyes. People who view computer screens often forget to blink regularly. This intense focus dries the eye's surface, making it susceptible to redness and vision problems. If you also deal with dry eye syndrome, you'll feel the strain more.
Blurred vision. Sometimes your blurry symptoms can come from constantly changing focus between the keyboard and your screen, or between screen images. It can also occur from significant time in front of the computer.
Eye muscle strain. It is a lot of work for your eyes to continually focus on computer. The strain may translate to red eyes, headaches, double vision, and general fatigue.
Pain in neck and shoulders. Most people forget to demonstrate good posture at their desks. Their screen may be at an odd angle, so they compensate by sitting in an awkward position. This leads to shoulder and neck pain (and headaches).
Headaches. Even if your shoulders and neck seem comfortable, the glare of your screen can still bring on a headache. Overhead lights or window glare can also intensify a headache.
These symptoms not only make you feel terrible, they can do a real number on your productivity, and impact job satisfaction as well. If they're not resolved, they can lead to poor eye health in the long term.Treatment StrategiesFortunately, awareness of CVS is half the battle. If you finally understand why your eyes hurt at the end of a long day, you can actively resolve many of your problems on your own. You should also contact an eye care professional to rule out related vision problems. Follow these additional eye care tips:
Have an annual eye exam. Tell your doctor about your computer use. It also helps to measure the distance between your eyes and your screen, so your doctor has some specifics to go by.
Change computer settings. Even a simple adjustment to screen brightness can pay generous dividends to your eye health and comfort.
Ask for an equipment upgrade. If your computer is old, it may contribute to your eyestrain. If you're due for an upgrade, choose an LCD screen at a high resolution and refresh rate.
Take breaks. Go outside for a few minutes. Sit in a quiet place and close your eyes while you breathe deeply. Glance out the window at a natural scene. Talk to a neighbour who's also taking a break. Adhere to the "20/20/20 rule:" look at something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds, every 20 minutes.
Adjust lighting. Although it's not always possible, in an office setting, to cut the overhead lights, you may ask others in the office if they object to a lower lighting plan. When possible, exchange fluorescent tubes for lower-intensity tubes.
Reduce glare. Although it's not always possible to change your wall colour from blinding white to soothing taupe, it never hurts to ask. Meanwhile, install an anti-glare screen on your computer monitor and choose corrective spectacle lenses that feature AR (anti-reflection) coating.
Don't forget to blink. It may take some reminding, but you can teach yourself to blink more often during the day. If you blink often and still deal with scratchy, dry eyes, lubricating drops may help. Ask your optometrist which ones would be best for you.
Change your workstation. Don't discount the power of rearranging your desk. Even a few simple changes like adjusting the height of your chair in relationship to your screen may help. Keep your screen 45 to 76 cm (17 to 30 inches) from your eyes.
Drink adequate amounts of water. If you're getting your daily requirement of water, your body (and eyes) will be adequately hydrated, and this can help dry eyes as well.
Get an outside reminder. Download a meditational app. Check out an eye health reminder website like protectyourvision.org. And, as always, see your eye doctor at least once a year.
By following these tips, you're taking charge of your eye health. Check back regularly with Optometrists' Clinic blog for further eye care topics!