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Computer vision syndrome

Computer vision syndrome, or CVS, describes eye problems resulting from using computer and laptop screens at work and at home.

Between 64% and 90% of people who use computers experience symptoms including eyestrain, headaches, eye discomfort, dry eye, double vision and blurred vision.

How can my computer affect my vision?

Working at a computer requires your eyes to continuously focus, move back and forth and align with what you are seeing. You have to look down at your papers and then back up to type and your eyes have to accommodate to changing images on the screen in order to create a clear picture for your brain to interpret.

All of these functions require a lot of effort from your eye muscles. Working on a computer is more challenging to your eyes than reading a book or piece of paper because a computer screen also adds the elements of screen contrast, flicker and glare. Computer eye problems are more likely to occur if you already have an eye problem, such as short-sightedness or astigmatism, or if you need glasses but don't wear them or wear the wrong prescription for computer use.

Working at a computer gets even more difficult as you get older. That's because the lens of your eye becomes less flexible. The ability to focus on near and far objects starts to diminish after about the age of 40, a condition called presbyopia.

What symptoms are part of computer vision syndrome?

There's no evidence that CVS causes any long-term damage to the eyes such as cataracts. However, regular computer use can be the source of significant eyestrain and discomfort.

If the symptoms of computer vision syndrome are not treated they can have a real effect on your work performance.

Is there any way to relieve computer vision syndrome?

Making a few simple changes in your work environment can help prevent and improve computer vision symptoms:

  • Cut the glare. Change the lighting around you to reduce glare on your computer screen. If a nearby window is casting glare on your screen, move the monitor and close the blind or curtains until the glare disappears. Ask your employer to install a dimmer switch for the overhead lights if they're too bright or buy a desk lamp with a moveable shade that distributes light evenly over your desk. Putting a glare filter over your monitor can also help protect your eyes.
  • Rearrange your desk. Researchers find that the optimal position for your computer monitor is slightly below eye level, about 20 to 28 inches away from your face. At that position, you shouldn't have to stretch your neck or strain your eyes to see what's on the screen. Put a stand next to your computer monitor and place any printed materials you're working from on it. Then you won't have to look up at your screen and back down at your desk while you type.
  • Give your eyes a break. Look away from the screen every 20 minutes or so and either gaze out the window or scan the room for about 20 seconds to rest your eyes. Blink often to keep your eyes moist. If your eyes are getting overly dry, try using lubricating eyedrops.
  • Tweak your computer settings. You don't have to live with the factory-installed settings on your computer if you're uncomfortable. Adjust the brightness, contrast and font size until you find the best settings for your vision.
  • Visit your optician regularly for a sight test. Let the optician know about any eyestrain or other problems you're experiencing at work. You may need glasses or contact lenses to correct your computer eye problems. The optician will help determine whether you can just wear your usual glasses or if you need special computer glasses.

Also, have children's eyes checked often. Make sure any computers they use are set up at the right height and with optimal lighting to minimise glare.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on June 27, 2016

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