Don’t worry. It is not a new form of virus nor is it contagious. Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), otherwise known as digital eyestrain is simply a condition where one experiences a group of eye and vision related symptoms after long hours of computer use.
Do you experience neck pain, eyestrain, dry eyes, blurry vision, and headache after using your laptop or mobile phone or any other devices for some time? If you do experience more than one of these, you may have Computer Vision Syndrome.
How exactly do viewing laptops, mobile phones, tablets and other electronic items for a long time give you Computer Vision Syndrome? They are all due to poor viewing habits and poor environmental set up.
The symptoms include:
- blurry vision
- dry eyes
- neck & back pain
Why does computer vision syndrome happen?
Believe it or not reading from device screens, strains your eyes more compared to reading a printed copy. This is because the words and characters from the former are made of pixels. They are not as well-defined as that of printed words. There are other factors too, such as low screen resolution, poor contrast, and low refreshing rate (flicker) when it comes to reading from devices.
Due to the unstable nature of the words display by devices, your eye muscles have to constantly make adjustments every second when you are looking at your devices, in order to maintain clear vision.
On top of that, it is common for everyone’s work nature to involve reading printed copies while working with devices at the same time. This involves constant switching gaze from the printed copy, to the keyboard, finally to the screen, and the cycle continues. Your eye muscles will be constantly working hard to make adjustments because the amount of work, the eye muscles need to carry out to maintain focus for printed copies, keyboard and words displayed by devices, are very different.
These combined, eventually leads to eyestrain and blurry vision because the eye muscles are exhausted. By looking at your devices continuously without in-between breaks, you are basically subjecting your eyes’ muscles to an intense, non-stop workout. Think of it this way, your arms and legs will feel tired and sore after working out non-stop for a long period of time. This applies to your eye muscles as well. When your eye muscles are too exhausted, they will not be able to carry out their role of maintaining your vision, and headaches will follow suit.
Research has shown that the number of times we blink is significantly reduced whenever we read or watch videos. On top of that, your surrounding environment such as air-conditioned office, hot weather, windy area also contribute to the cause of dry eye.
Blinking is important as it helps in spreading the tears throughout your eyes, thus maintaining your eyes’ moistures. When we do not blink as often as we should, your eyes are left exposed to the surrounding and the tear layer on your eyes will dry out.
Neck and back pain
Poor sitting postures and the tendency to remain in such postures for a long period of time will cause neck and back pain. Continuous hours of working with electronic devices with poor posture will stiffen your body and causing it to strain.
How to prevent computer vision syndrome?
We are always busy and barely have time for ourselves, but it doesn’t hurt to just spare a couple of hours to give your eyes a full health check up by an optometrist. Don’t forget to tell your optometrist about your device using habits and be very honest about it. This is vital so that your optometrist will be able to recommend the suitable lenses for your glasses (should you needed one) which can suit your vision needs.
It is important for you to have your vision corrected by wearing the right pair of glasses. Glasses do more than just allowing you to see clearly, they in fact help in relaxing your eye muscles. Not having the correct glasses power will strain your eye muscles because they have to work extra hard to give you the best possible vision. Having the right prescription of glasses, will increase productivity because you can see well and feel good.
You can even consider getting yourself specialty lenses for your glasses. Specialty glasses such as computer glasses proved to be great help for your eyes for computer work.
Adjust screen display
Adjust your screen’s refresh rate to the highest possible (ideally higher than 75 hertz) in order to minimise the ‘flicker’ of your screen. Take note of the screen brightness too. If your device’s screen looks like a light source in your room, it means your screen is too bright. If you can barely see the images display by your screen, it means the screen’s brightness is too low. Adjustments need to be made until the screen brightness is balance with your surrounding lighting condition and your eyes must feel comfortable as well.
If you are changing your computer or laptop, it is highly recommended to choose a large flat-panel LED screen with an anti-reflective surface and highest resolution. The sharp images produced by such screen reduce the strain on your eye muscles.
You can even install an anti-glare screen to minimise the glaring effect from your computer as the glaring effect also contributes to eye strain. You can also adjust the font size and the colour temperature of your monitor as well to maximise screen viewing comfort.
Modify your set-up and environment
This applies to your workstation. If you are working with both printed copy and computer at the same time, position your printed documents in a way that they stand side by side with your computer screen. This way, you won’t need to constantly shift your gaze and your eyes can maintain their focus.
Your computer screen should be at least one arm's length away from your eyes and 10-15 degrees below your eye level for comfortable head and neck positioning. Remember to sit up straight on a comfortable chair.
Do not position your computer/laptop nearby windows as the bright sunlight can be glaring for your eyes due to reflection from your screen. On top of that, the brightness of your surrounding lighting condition should be at a comfortable brightness (ideally 200 to 700 lux), so that it doesn’t cause any glaring to your eyes. Most importantly, the surrounding lighting and your screen brightness should be balanced and your eyes must be able to see good, and feel good.
Frequent in-between breaks
Adopt the 20-20-20 rule whenever you are working with your devices. This rule means that for every 20 minutes of computer work, look at an object at least 20ft away or further for 20s. Preferably gaze at something outdoor that is far from your working space. This habit helps in relaxing your eye muscles thus, reducing the tendency of eyestrains.
Make it a point to also take a ten minute break for every hour of computer work. Simply step away from your computer and devices, walk around and do simple stretching exercise. This is good for your back, shoulders and neck. Your muscles will be able to relax thus, preventing neck and back pains.
Blink frequently and use artificial tears
We tend to unwittingly blink less while we are focusing on our computer work. So make a mental note to blink frequently while you are working with your computer. Blinking helps in spreading the moisture across your eyes’ surface and this can reduce the chances of developing dry eyes. Using artificial tears (eye drops), will help in relieving dry eyes. It is recommended to use the preservative-free ones as they are less likely to cause eye irritations and adverse reactions.
Computer Vision Syndrome is even more prevalent today, especially during this time of pandemic where most of us are confined to our own homes almost every day, in the name of working from home. Work meetings, trainings, courses, and even school lessons are being held online now. We are gluing our eyes to the computer screens more than ever and we are stressing them out even more.
Therefore, it is imperative for us to take note of the proper visual hygiene practice for the better care of our eyes. After all, our eyes deserve a break.
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Samuel O. Wajuihian: Frequency of asthenopia and its association with refractive errors. 2015; 74
KY Loh, SC Redd: Understanding and Preventing Computer Vision Syndrome. 2008; 3: pp. 128-130
J.K.S. Parihar, Maj Gen, SM, VSM, Vaibhav Kumar Jain, Piyush Chaturvedi, Lt Col, Jaya Kaushik, Lt Col, Gunjan Jain, Ashwini K.S. Parihar: Computer and visual display terminals (VDT) vision syndrome (CVDTS). 2016; 72: pp. 270-276
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Updated on 6 April 2021 by CaregiverAsia.
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