Computer Vision Syndrome: If You Know What’s Good for You, Don’t Read This!

By Tracy Morris

Computer Vision Syndrome - woman working on computerI don’t know if I’m preaching to the choir or making a confession, but I gaze at computer screens far too often and for too long. My family and friends joke about there being a monitor glued to my face. It’s the nature of my business. Most I can do is shrug.

The American Optometric Association wants me to cut it out, or at least make some changes to my computer use so that I won’t suffer from Computer Vision Syndrome.

The AOA must know how I live. I contacted them to inquire about March being Save Your Vision Month, and in return they told me all about how I’m straining my eyes and ruining my vision by way of what I do for a living.

Now I understand why the representative of the Association is so good at brevity in her emails. She probably hates looking at her computer’s monitor longer than absolutely necessary.

All right, fine. At least I’m not alone — they conducted their second American Eye-Q® survey of over 1,000 adults and determined that 82 percent of us work frequently with a computer or handheld device. Besides spending too much time in front of the screen, we also don’t usually have it positioned in the most ergonomic way.  

What is Computer Vision Syndrome?

What is Computer Vision Syndrome? Woman working on laptop.The symptoms aren’t bizarre:

  • Dry eye
  • Eyestrain
  • Light sensitivity
  • Fatigue

 

All rather predictable and usually temporary results from computer use. The real problem is that for some people, conditions like blurred distance vision continue and worsen even after resting from staring at a screen.

The problems result from how computer use makes our eyes work in ways to which they’re unaccustomed. The AOA says the following specific vision skills place more demands on our eyeballs:

  • Ocular motility – eyes’ ability to move in various positions
  • Accommodation – ability to focus at various distances
  • Vergence – ability to move eyes in or out

According to Dr. Kent Daum, AOA optometrist and Vice President and Dean for Academic Affairs at the Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago, these are some of the reasons that computer work — as opposed to reading a printed page — is so damaging to our eyes:

“Computer work requires a great deal more eye movement and re-focusing. The letters on a screen are not as precise or sharply defined, the level of contrast between letters and background is reduced, and the presence of glare and reflections on the screen add to the viewing problem.”  

Aside From Tossing Out the Computer…

The experts say we shouldn’t give up hope, and they recognize that computer use isn’t going to decrease either. There are things we can do to maintain healthy vision.

  • Use the highest resolution your monitor will support. If increasing the resolution makes font and icons too small, increase font size (DPI) to compensate.
  • Adjust contrast and brightness for clarity.
  • Avoid reflected glare on the screen, either by re-positioning the monitor, lights, or by using special AOA-approved filters. Eliminate sources of bright light in your peripheral (side) vision areas or overhead, and position your monitor perpendicular to windows.
  • For non-LCD monitors, a higher image refresh rate will keep flickering to a minimum. Optimally, no flickering is best.
  • Have your work at a distance that is comfortable to view, without your having to move your head at an awkward angle. The monitor’s top should be slightly below horizontal eye level, tilted slightly away from you (10 to 20 degree angle) and about 24 inches away.
  • Limit your continuous use time. The AOA recommends the 20/20 rule: look away every 20 minutes for 20 seconds.
  • Make an effort to blink frequently.
  • Have your vision checked regularly, at least every two years or as recommended by your eye doctor.

Doctors of optometry have the skills and training to provide more than two-thirds of all primary eye care in the United States.

Prior to optometry school, optometrists undergo three to four years of undergraduate study that typically culminates in a Bachelor of Science degree in a field such as biology or chemistry. Optometry school consists of four years of post-graduate, doctoral study concentrating on both the eye and systemic health. In addition to their formal training, doctors of optometry must undergo annual continuing education to stay current on the latest standards of care. For more information, visit www.aoa.org.

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