Computer vision – A new disease?

March 25, 2008

We are all spending more and more time in front of a computer; shopping online, checking emails, reading our horoscope (or is t hat just me?). It is easy to forget the time, but your eyes will remind you because hours spent staring at a computer screen means you risk suffering tired, dry eyes, blurred vision, eye strain, headache, and sensitivity to light. This has led to a new ‘disease’ being recognised, collectively those symptoms are becoming known as “computer vision syndrome.”

The American Optometric Association certainly has recognised it as a growing problem with an estimated 10 million people visiting their optometrist annually for computer eye-related difficulties. Apparently, according to the Optometric Association, a computer is a challenging environment for the eyes because the imagery is not as clear as it seems to be, and because of that it’s harder for the eye to focus than it would be on ordinary print on a page.

First step is to get your eyes checked and if you spend more than a couple of hours a day in front of the computer you should mention it to your optician so they can see whether you need separate glasses for that, or a screen filter to help reduce glare and eye discomfort. If you wear bifocals, or varifocals, you can also suffer from neck and shoulder problems because these glasses are often not set for the computer so you end up having to move your head closer to the computer while at the same time tipping your head back to see the screen. That’s an awkward position and if you have been suffering from a stiff neck it could be the reason why.

One simple tip that helps is to blink more often because that lubricates your eyes. When we concentrate, our blink rate goes down, leading to dry eyes. Try adopting the 20/20 rule – every 20 minutes look away from your computer for about 20 seconds; this will minimize the development of eye-focusing problems and eye irritation caused by not blinking enough.

Check the lighting, you don’t want too much bright overhead light or any kind of glare or reflection off your computer screen. Finally, is your monitor at the right height? Experts advise that for maximum ergonomic comfort, the screen should be right in front of you so you don’t have to twist to see it and the monitor should be at eye level, or a little below it.


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