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Computer Vision Syndrome
As we are all living through these unprecedented times of COVID-19, we are likely spending even more time using our eyes for a variety of near tasks. Many are working from home, our kids are continuing their education online and people are reading books that they had been putting off. We are also simply surfing the web and looking at social media on our phones more than ever. These increased near tasks make managing Computer Vision Syndrome all the more important.
Computer Vision Syndrome, also known as Digital Eye Strain, pertains to a group of vision-related symptoms that are associated with near tasks. These symptoms result from prolonged use of digital devices like computers, tablets and cellphones. Also, extended periods of reading, sewing and knitting, i.e., non-digital near tasks can lead to similar symptoms.
Roughly 3 in 4 people suffer some degree of symptoms from near work. These symptoms include the following:
• Eye stain/fatigue
• Blurred vision
• Dry eyes
• Neck/shoulder pain
These symptoms can be caused by a number of factors such as:
• Improper viewing distances
• Poor seating posture
• Poor lighting/glare
• Uncorrected vision problems
• Duration of time performing tasks
• Combination of the above factors
Many symptoms are temporary and decline when stopping near work. These symptoms can also be improved by incorporating some changes to how we manage prolonged times of near work. A number of these symptoms stem from dry eye, poor ergonomics and poor lighting.
Below are a few things we can all do to decrease symptoms from Computer Vision Syndrome.
• Adjust the monitor so that it is located 15-20 degrees below eye level. This is approximately 4-5 inches below eye level when the monitor is placed at a distance of 20-28 inches from the eyes.
• Reference materials should be placed above the height of the keyboard and below the height of the monitor.
• Cut down on glare off of the monitor by adjusting blinds and curtains to minimize sunlight directed at the monitor. Also, place low wattage lighting in positions to reduce glare off of monitors.
• Anti-glare screens can be used.
• One’s seating position should include a comfortable chair adjusted to a height where one’s feet are flat on the floor. Arm support while typing. Wrists should not rest on the keyboard.
• Take a 15-minute break for every 2 hours of continuous near work. Also, use the 20-20-20 rule...every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
• Make a conscious effort to blink. When we focus on near items, our blink rate is decreased by about 66%. This leads to the eyes drying out.
Much of what causes Computer Vision Syndrome is related to dry eyes. The use of artificial tears as well as other dry eye treatments can improve symptoms related to computer work. Medication drops such as Restasis, Xiidra and Cequa can play a role in improving symptoms.
Fully correcting any nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism with glasses, contact lenses or refractive surgeries such as LASIK can lessen symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome. Presbyopia also, needs to be corrected with the proper power of over-the-counter reading glasses or bifocal.
Blue light is a controversial topic regarding its affect on Computer Vision Syndrome and just the eye in general. To date, there is no evidence that the blue light emitted from digital devices such as computers, tablets and cellphones causes any damage to the eye. In fact, even with all the time Americans spend on digital devices, the sun is still the biggest source by far of blue light entering the eye.
Stay safe and healthy during this time!