Your Eyes and Your Job

By Paula Santonocito

March is Workplace Eye Safety Month -- What is Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS)?This month is Workplace Eye Safety Month, an annual March event.

Eye safety is essential for many jobs, including welding and various assembly positions. But eye safety has broader implications in today’s workplace because of a tool more people now use. That tool is the computer.

Computers and Eyesight

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 75 percent of U.S. workers use computers on the job. Technology has revolutionized the workplace, but in doing so it has exacted a price on people’s eyes.

As computer use has become more prevalent, so too have vision-related difficulties. The problem is so common it even has a name: Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).

What exactly is CVS?

The American Optometric Association (AOA), a leading professional and research organization, provides this definition: “CVS is the complex of eye and vision problems related to near work which are experienced during or related to computer use. CVS is characterized by visual symptoms which result from interaction with a computer display or its environment. In most cases, symptoms occur because the visual demands of the task exceed the visual abilities of the individual to comfortably perform the task.”

Symptoms of CVS include eyestrain, fatigue, headache, blurred near vision, blurred distant vision, dry or irritated eyes, neck and/or backaches, and diplopia (double vision).

Vision Care for Computer Users

Fortunately, the AOA offers several recommendations that can help minimize the negative impact computer use has on your eyes:

  • Make a conscious effort to blink more.
  • Use a lubricating eye drop to alleviate dry or itchy eyes.
  • Remember to look away from the computer on a frequent basis.
  • Make sure your screen is slightly lower than eye level and straight in front of you.
  • Clean your screen often.

In addition, eye care professionals say lighting is critical. Office lighting and a computer screen should not be at odds. You also don’t want light from an incoming window behind a computer screen or reflecting onto it.

Lighting can be difficult to control in the workplace, but anti-glare screens, also called screen protectors, can help counteract the problem.

Another step you can take to reduce eyestrain is increase the size of text on your screen. Programs like Microsoft Word allow you to change how text appears on your computer monitor (not the font itself; but the appearance of text on the screen). The default, shown in a white box on the Word toolbar, is set at 100%. Changing it to 125% makes a remarkable difference.

When using the drop down arrow you may notice that 125 isn’t an option; it looks like the next choice above 100 is 150, which is a lot larger. However, you can highlight the number in the box, delete it, and enter any number you choose. What’s more, the new number becomes your default and each document will now appear larger.

Professional Resources

Although these tips may prove helpful, they are not a substitute for professional care.

If vision problems persist, don’t ignore the symptoms. Schedule an eye exam, even if you already wear glasses. Your prescription may need to be increased or the glasses you’re wearing might not be the right ones for working on a computer. There are now eyeglasses designed especially for computer use.

More information about computer glasses, a tool for checking your eyes, and additional resources are available at a website called Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) and Computer Reading Glasses.

Why not use Workplace Eye Safety Month as an opportunity to look at your vision safety? The results could change the way you see everything at work.

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