If you devote your days (and nights, depending on how you spend your free time) to staring at computer screens, you’re at risk for developing Computer Visions Syndrome (CVS). In fact, you may have it already and just not know that the symptoms you’re experiencing are directly connected to your screen-staring habit. So what is CVS, and what can you do about it?
What Is Computer Vision Syndrome
Though we may associate the term “Repetitive Strain Injury” with conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, CVS is actually a form of RSI, as it arises from repeating one motion over and over again. As you sit at your computer screen for hours on end, your eyes must stay focused on text and images at a static distance from you, something they did not evolve to do. In a more natural setting, your eyes would constantly adjust to focus on objects both near and far away, tracking them as either you or the object moved. While your eyes do have to adjust and move throughout your day at the computer, these movements are necessarily highly precise as your eyes dart from fine print on a screen to your smartphone to a piece of paper in front of you. The result is serious discomfort, and the symptoms below.
Anyone who uses a computer for more than two hours straight each day is at risk of developing CVS. However, people who already have eye problems, like astigmatism or nearsightedness, are particularly vulnerable, as their eyes are already straining to focus at that distance. Chances are also high for older workers, as the lens of the eye stiffens with age, making adjustment more difficult.
How You Know You Have Computer Vision Syndrome
Computer Vision Syndrome has a number of telltale symptoms:
- Blurred and double vision
- Irritated, dry and red eyes
- Neck and back pain
How to Treat Computer Vision Syndrome
Glasses and contact lenses designed for the unique demands of computer use can help in some cases, even if you don’t require either for daily use. In extreme cases, a structured program of vision therapy can help to train the brain and eye muscles to better coincide. Training involves a program of eye exercises involving focusing and movement.
There are a number of other effective interventions that are effective not only for treating computer vision syndrome but for preventing it as well.
How to Prevent Computer Vision Syndrome
1. Find the Proper Viewing Distance.
The ideal viewing position and distance require a minimum amount of work for your eyes. For most people, this means placing your screen about an arm’s length away. To prevent further problems, you want to be able to keep your neck in a neutral position, rather than straining too far up or down. If you work from any kind of mobile device, a laptop and tablet stand will help you achieve the proper distance and height.
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2. Install Ample Lighting.
Improper lighting and glare are two of the biggest culprits at the heart of CVS, as both cause squinting and straining. A lack of lighting as well can cause strain, as you struggle to see what’s on the screen. Consider purchasing an anti-glare screen so you can work comfortably even near a window, and arrange lighting so that it doesn’t reflect harshly off the screen. Lower wattages tend to be softer than higher wattages and fluorescent lighting, to stick to them.
3. Take Breaks.
Your eyes weren’t meant to focus so intensely and at such a near distance for such long periods of time. As such, it’s best to rest your eyes for a good 15 minutes after 2 hours of computer use. Additionally, set a timer to remind you to refocus your eyes on a distant point every 20 minutes or so to cut down on overall strain. You might want to try the app EyeLeo for these reminders, as it allows you not only to choose ideal reminder times for breaks but it also dims the screen when that time comes, so you can’t keep on working.
When you stare straight ahead at a computer screen, you tend to blink a lot less than when you stare down at a page. As such, remind yourself to blink now and again to wet your eyes, or use eyedrops to keep the fluid flowing. This will help prevent the itchiness, redness and dryness you may be experiencing.
Computer Vision Syndrome is an unfortunate reality in today’s device-centric work culture, but it doesn’t have to be. With this knowledge in hand, you will protect your vision and increase your comfort. Happy computing!