These days, many of us have jobs that require us to stare at computer screens for hours at a time. That can put a real strain on your eyes.

Eye problems caused by computer use fall under the heading computer vision syndrome (CVS). It isn’t one specific problem. Instead, it includes a whole range of eye strain and pain. Research shows that between 50% and 90% of people who work at a computer screen have at least some symptoms.

Working adults aren’t the only ones affected. Kids who stare at tablets or use computers during the day at school can have issues, too, especially if the lighting and their posture are less than ideal.

Computers Affect Vision

CVS is similar to carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive motion injuries you might get at work. It happens because your eyes follow the same path over and over. And it can get worse the longer you continue the movement.

When you work at a computer, your eyes have to focus and refocus all the time.  They move back and forth as you read. You may have to look down at papers and then back up to type. Your eyes react to changing images on the screen to create so your brain can process what you’re seeing. All these jobs require a lot of effort from your eye muscles. And to make things worse, unlike a book or piece of paper, the screen adds contrast, flicker, and glare.

You’re more likely to have problems if you already have eye trouble, if you need glasses but don’t have them, or if you wear the wrong prescription for computer use.

Computer work gets harder as you age and the lenses in your eyes becomes less flexible. Somewhere around age 40, your ability to focus on near and far objects will start to go away. Your eye doctor will call this condition presbyopia.

Having a routine comprehensive eye exam is the most important thing you can do to prevent or treat computer vision problems. If you haven’t had an eye exam in over a year, schedule a visit with an eye doctor near you.

Blinking is very important when working at a computer; blinking moistens your eyes to prevent dryness and irritation. When working at a computer, people blink less frequently — about one-third as often as they normally do — and many blinks performed during computer work are only partial lid closures, according to studies.

Another cause of computer eye strain is focusing fatigue. To reduce your risk of tiring your eyes by constantly focusing on your screen, look away from your computer at least every 20 minutes and gaze at a distant object (at least 20 feet away) for at least 20 seconds. Some eye doctors call this the “20-20-20 rule.” Looking far away relaxes the focusing muscle inside the eye to reduce fatigue.

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