What is Computer Vision Syndrome, and how can you avoid it?
For many people, spending the majority of the day in front of a computer screen is a fact of life—and an unavoidable reality of living and working in the 21st century. Computers (and other screen-based technology) have become increasingly ever-present in our daily lives—whether we’re at work or relaxing at home. In short, screens are all around us, and unfortunately, they can cause problems for our health—and specifically, our eyes.
Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), which is often referred to as “digital eye strain,” is a term used to describe a group of eye-related problems triggered by sustained exposure to screens. Although CVS hasn’t been linked to permanent eye damage, prolonged computer use can unquestionably result in pain and discomfort that can get in the way of work performance, and overall quality of life.
On the bright side, there are simple ways to prevent CVS, and ensure your eyes stay in excellent shape, regardless of how screen-centric your life is.
What causes Computer Vision Syndrome?
As its name implies, computers—or screens more broadly—are the culprit behind Computer Vision Syndrome. The longer we look at screens, which can be quite visually demanding, the harder our eyes need to work to keep up with the bright and intricate material in front of us. Unlike printed content, screens have reflections and glare, and the text is less sharp than it typically is on a printed page, making it more difficult to discern.
For some people, prolonged time in front of a computer screen can exacerbate uncorrected or under-corrected vision concerns, or cause eyestrain. Spending two or more hours straight in front of a digital device, without pause, increases the risk of developing CVS.
Various additional factors can also contribute to the risk of developing CVS, including lighting, viewing distance, poor posture, and pre-existent though unaddressed vision problems—such as astigmatism and farsightedness, as well as accommodative dysfunction.
Symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome
Symptoms commonly associated with Computer Vision Syndrome are as follows:
● Blurred vision
● Dry eyes
● Neck, back and shoulder aches
In most cases, symptoms are temporary and will dissipate shortly after an individual stops staring at a screen. Some people experience sustained symptoms, including weakened sight, particularly if they do not make a conscious effort to avoid CVS.
How to diagnose Computer Vision Syndrome
The best way to determine if your eyes are being negatively affected by screen exposure is to get a comprehensive eye exam. Your optometrist will take visual acuity measurements to assess whether your vision is being impacted and provide vision correction if necessary.
Your doctor will also test your eye focus, and ensure both eyes are working in unison. They will verify that you are seeing as clearly as possible, which will help you avoid eye strain, including when looking at a screen.
Beyond just diagnosing Computer Vision Syndrome and offering sustainable solutions, getting regular comprehensive eye exams is also important for maintaining strong vision health, and combatting potential problems before they become serious.
How to treat & prevent Computer Vision Syndrome
If you experience symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) due to blue light from prolonged computer work, there are several ways to treat and prevent it. Start by optimizing your work environment for eye and vision health.
Here are a few changes that can make a significant difference: Increase the text size on your digital screen, reduce overhead lighting to minimize glare, position the center of the screen about an arm's length away and four inches below eye level, and use a comfortable chair with good posture.
Aside from making environmental adjustments, it's significant to rest your eyes throughout the day. Take a minimum 15 minutes break every two hours of screen time, and practice the 20-20-20 rule by looking at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes.
Lubricating eye drops can also help alleviate symptoms of CVS. Corrective lenses, including contacts, may also be beneficial. Don't hesitate to consult with your eye doctor for personalized recommendations.
Making these small but significant changes will help eliminate digital eye strain, and prevent it from happening in the first place. At the end of the day, though, consulting with your eye doctor and ensuring you get regular comprehensive eye exams is the best way to protect your eyes and stave off problems.