Using the computer, watching TV, surfing on our tablets, reading on the e-reader, and texting on our phones has become a habit in our daily lives. The impact it has on our eyes is known as Computer Vision Syndrome or CVS. It can affect people of all ages that view electronic screens for prolonged periods of time. Symptoms of CVS include, but are not limited to: eyestrain, headaches, blurry or fluctuating vision, dry, burning, red and/or itchy eyes, neck and shoulder pain.
Our eyes work harder to focus when viewing an electronic screen often. This changes our natural blinking patterns. The behaviour of our eyes working harder and blinking less causes development of vision-related symptoms. Uncorrected vision problems can increase the severity of these symptoms. Obtaining the correct prescription for viewing the computer is optimal to relieve the stress on your eyes. Poor posture when at the computer, especially if held for prolonged periods of time, can often cause headaches, neck and shoulder pain. Dry room conditions and lack of blinking can cause dry, burning, red or itchy eyes.
The best solution for your eyes is to see your Doctor of Optometry. An Optometrist can diagnose any underlying vision or ocular health problems that may be preventing you from using digital devices to your maximum potential. They can also give you more specific tips on preventing symptoms that you have been experiencing from CVS or any other eye related condition.
Here’s some advice:
- Make sure that your computer, chair and desk are positioned correctly for you. Most people find that having the computer screen 20-28 inches from the eyes and 15-20 degrees below eye level as measured from the centre of the screen is most comfortable.
- Lighting is very important. Glare from overhead lighting or windows can be distracting and also reduces the screen contrast. This may cause trouble with eye focusing.
- New research has been focusing on blue light as a threat to visual health. In particular, high energy visible light. This type of light is not just prevalent outdoors, but also emitted by digital devices such as computer screens, tablets, smart phones and televisions. Research is currently investigating the effects of this type of light on the health of the eye, specifically the lens and the retina. In the past 2 years, several optical companies have developed lens products that are specifically designed to protect the eye from these types of radiation.
- Taking breaks is very important in preventing the symptoms of CVS. Remember the 20/20/20 rule! Ideally, for every 20 minutes of screen viewing, 20 seconds should be spent looking at something further than 20 feet away, to give the eyes a chance to refocus.
- Blinking is often affected by prolonged computer use. The average person blinks 15 to 20 times per minute, however in front of a screen this number tends to drop drastically. This may cause dryness, redness, burning or other eye irritations. Consciously remembering to blink may reduce these types of symptoms.
If you feel like CVS is affecting your life, talk to an Optometrist today!