Computer Vision Syndrome Diagnosis and Treatment
What is Computer Vision Syndrome?
Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), or just “computer eyestrain” is a condition that affects many computer users. Approximately 70% of computer workers are reported to having vision problems. The symptoms CVS include eyestrain, dry or burning eyes, blurred vision, headaches, double vision, distorted color vision, and neck and backaches. The condition is caused by various factors. One factor is poor visual skills such as accommodative (eye focusing) skills or binocularity (eye coordination/eye teaming) skills..
Another factor is the tendency of computer users to stare at monitors for long periods without changing eye focus from time to time. The distance between a computer user and a monitor is another factor. Room lighting, monitor glare, screen color, print color, and print size can also be contributing factors to this condition.
It is estimated that over 100 million working Americans suffer from computer eyestrain. Nearly 54 million children connect to the Internet each day either at home or in school. If you or your child spend more than two hours each day in front of a computer screen, you likely experience some symptoms of computer vision syndrome or CVS such as:
- Loss of focus
- Burning/tired eyes
- Double vision
- Blurred vision
- Neck and shoulder pain
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What causes computer eye strain?
CVS is caused by our eyes and brain reacting differently to characters on the screen than they do to printed characters:
Screen vs. Printed Characters
CVS is caused by our eyes and brain reacting differently to characters on the screen than they do to printed characters. Until now, traditional eye exams for near vision have resulted in eyewear suited for reading printed material, not for viewing computer screens.
Our eyes respond well to most printed material, which is characterized by its dense black characters with well- defined edges which contrast markedly from their light background. Healthy eyes can easily maintain focus on the printed page.
Characters on a computer screen, however, don’t have this contrast, or well-defined edges. These characters are brightest at their centers and diminish in intensity toward their edges. Our eyes are unable to maintain focus and remain on plane with these images. They instead drift out to a point called the resting point of accommodation (RPA).
Our eyes constantly move to the RPA, and then strain to regain focus on the screen. This continuous flexing of the eyes’ focusing muscles creates fatigue and the burning, tired eyes feeling.
Blue light is the high energy light that is emitted from LED screens and other digital devices. Blue light sits at the end of the visible light spectrum, right next to UV light. Its high energy stresses the ciliary muscle in the eye.
Melatonin Production Impact
Blue light’s ability to penetrate our eyes suppresses our melatonin production which helps regulate our sleeping and wakeing cycles. Prolonged exposure to blue light (most relevantly, from the screens of our digital devices) suppresses this neurotransmitter and tricks your mind into thinking it should still be alert and awake. This just makes it harder to fall and stay asleep.
Glare, or excessive light coming into your eye is stresses the muscles in the eye and can cause dry and strained eyes.
Close up Work
Our eyes were never meant to stare at objects up close for long amounts of time. They are naturally at rest when looking at objects about 20 ft away. Close up work on a phone or tablet unnecessarily stresses our eyes. The ciliary muscle in our eye to spasms back and forth to adjust to this close proximity viewing which blurs vision and leads to eye fatigue and strain.
Dr. Sheiner may use a combination of several methods to determine whether you have CVS or some other condition which is causing your eye strain.
A few drops containing dye in each eye will help your doctor to check for any dry spots.
This simple, painless test assesses tear volume. By placing the tip of a specially treated strip of paper in the lower lid of your eye, Dr. Sheiner is able to measure the amount of tears your eye produces in a five minute period.
Fixing Computer Stressed Vision
Get an Eye Exam
This is the most important thing you can do to prevent or treat computer vision problems. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), computer users should have an eye exam before they start working on a computer and once per year thereafter.
Use Proper Lighting
In your office you are likely to find several things that can cause eyestrain, including glare on walls and finished surfaces, reflections on the computer screen itself, excessively bright light coming in from outside, and excessively bright light inside.
Eliminate exterior light and reflections by closing drapes or blinds. When using computers, lighting should be about half that used in most offices. Reduce lighting by using fewer light bulbs or florescent tubes, or use lower intensity bulbs and tubes.
Take Frequent Breaks
Full time computer users should take a 10-minute break every hour to reduce eyestrain problems according to experts. Part-time users should take frequent breaks, after sitting in front of their display for more than an hour.
Refocus Your Eyes
Look away from your computer screen every 10-15 minutes and focus for 5-10 seconds on a distant object outside or down the hallway. This prevents the fixed gaze common among computer users. It also lets you blink, which wets your eyes.
Blink More Often
When staring at a computer, people blink less frequently—about 5 times less than normal, according to studies. Tears coating the eye evaporate more rapidly during long non-blinking phases and cause dry eyes. Office buildings may have excessively dry environments that also reduce tearing. For significant problems, ask Dr. Sheiner about artificial tears or eye drops that you can use during the day.
Use window shades, blinds or drapes to block out excessive sunlight, or install an anti-glare screen, to minimize reflections on the screen itself. Reduce the internal ambient light if necessary. For conditions where outside light cannot be reduced, use a computer hood to cut glare and reflection. Anti-Reflective lenses are highly recommended for your glasses. This will prevent glare and reflections on the back side of your lenses form reaching your eyes.
Computer Screen Brightness
Closely match the brightness of the environment with that of the computer screen. The contrast between the background and on-screen characters should be high.
In addition, check out apps for your computer such as f.lux which reduces the amount of blue light emitted by your LCD screens based on the time of day.
Prevention of CVS
Preventing CVS, or at least reducing the symptoms, can be done by following the prescribed course of action above. Try to add some of those tips into your computer related work.
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