As technology moves with us into the 21st century, computers are a daily part of most of our lives. Millions of Americans use a computer on the job or at home. Whether you are using a computer to be more productive at work or enjoy surfing the net at home, the convenience of using computers is often offset by headaches, blurry or double vision and burning eyes. These symptoms, as well as eye fatigue, eye irritation, excessive tearing, dry eye, pain in the eyes and frequent blinking and squinting, may be related to your computer use. Now referred to as computer vision syndrome (CVS), this condition affects more than 10 million Americans with numbers increasing as computer use increases.
Symptoms of CVS may be caused by poor lighting, glare, an improper work station set-up, vision problems of which the person was not previously aware, or a combination of these factors.
There are many things that you can do yourself to improve visual efficiency at your workstation. These include:
- Making sure the contrast on the screen is high. Dark characters on a light screen are generally the most legible.
- Take frequent breaks from the computer throughout the day. These can include other office tasks with different demands.
- If your screen has a dark background, use lower ambient lighting.
- The brightness of the computer screen and the surroundings should be equal.
- Position your computer screen to minimize glare. Use drapes or window treatments to block sunlight from windows. Keeping the computer screen clean can also help reduce reflections.
- Reference material should be on an adjustable holder and at the same viewing distance as your screen. Position material to minimize head and eye movements.
- Make a conscious effort to blink more.
- Use lubricating eye drops or tear replacements for dry or itchy eyes.
Computer and workstation adjustments are only part of easing computer vision strain. Poor eye focusing ability and poor eye coordination can cause eye strain, fatigue and headaches. At a vision exam, your doctor can test for these factors in addition to specific tests based on your unique needs.
People who use the computer for more than a few hours a day should consult an eye doctor for a thorough eye examination. A vision examination geared specifically toward CVS includes information from the patient on their work center and environment. This information will help the eye doctor analyze all areas that may be contributing to CVS.
Solutions to computer vision problems vary depending on your needs. There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all computer glasses. The best choice for one person may be single-vision lenses, while another might be best in multifocal or special computer glasses. Contact lenses may also be an option. There are also several lenses choices made just for use at the computer. Discussing your unique visual needs and working environment with your doctor is the best way to arrive at the optimum solution for your computer vision needs.
For more information on keeping your eyes healthy and comfortable at the computer, call the American Optometric Association (AOA) at 888-396-3937 and ask for their pamphlet Computer User s Guide to Better Vision. You can also visit the AOA website at www.aoanet.org