In 2013 it is not unusual for people in the US to have at least one computer in their homes, but increasingly people, including children, have access to multiple digital devices, such as iPads, smartphones, and hand-held games. People spend many cumulative hours on these various devices for work or school, squinting down at cell phones to read text messages and emails or playing games. A 2012 study by The Vision Council revealed over 30% of US adults reported using digital media or other electronic devices for 4-6 hours a day, with 14% approximately their use at 10-12 hours a day. All of this takes a toll on our eyes and vision.
We do not stop to think about what it takes for us to see the world around us. Every time we change where we look, our eyes move up, down, back, and forth. They have to refocus to create a clear image. A lot of little movements and adjustments must be made. Think about what you do at your desk. You look at the computer screen, then down at the papers on your desk, then back again. You do this for hours at a screen that is bright, flickers, and has a glare. Our eyes do a lot of work, and computers are compromising the quality of our vision.
Computer Vision Syndrome
What is it?
Computer vision syndrome (CVS), or digital eye strain, encompasses a group of eye and vision-related problems due to extended computer use. Symptoms manifest themselves as
- Dry eyes,
- Eye strain,
- Blurred vision,
- Headaches, and
- Neck and shoulder pain
These symptoms are interrelated. As we squint to see more clearly, headaches can occur because we have strained our eyes. If we have to tilt our heads for a better viewing angle, we experience neck and shoulder pains that in turn can contribute to headaches.
What are the causes?
Much of computer vision syndrome is caused by the digital devices themselves as they pose high visual demands. Digital images and text are made up of tiny dots called pixels, and eyes must work hard in order to interpret all the colored dots and spaces between them. Other symptom sources from computers or workstations are
- glare from screens,
- bad lighting,
- improper viewing distances, and
- poor seating posture.
Sometimes computer vision syndrome symptoms can occur or be aggravated due to uncorrected vision issues – like nearsightedness, astigmatism, or changes due to aging known as presbyopia. Some people who already wear glasses or contacts for vision problems may still experience CVS discomfort if their prescriptions are not suitable for computer viewing.
CVS is a result of a combination of some or all of these issues. The effects of digital eye strain cause discomfort that increases throughout the day from prolonged use but are generally temporary, going away once computer use is discontinued. While the long-term effects are not yet known, some people continue to have reduced visual abilities or experience discomfort even after no longer working at a computer. In the case of uncorrected vision problems, reduced visual abilities may become a bigger problem.
Tips to Prevent Eye Strain
Taking care of your vision and preventing eye strain starts with good computer habits. Making a few adjustments to a computer work station can make all the difference. Ergonomic chairs, desks, keyboards, and computer stands that will put you at the proper height encourage proper posture, thereby eliminating the need to tilt your head, etc. You can also
- Reduce glare by adjusting screen brightness or adding a protective screen over the monitor,
- Change the background color of the display,
- Keep the screen clean,
- Dim the lighting around your PC,
- Don’t sit too closely,
- Position the screen slightly below eye level, and don’t tilt it, and
- Increase the text size
Seeking Help and Vision Treatment in Minneapolis
Regular vision checks are important in order to monitor your eye health and to address any changes in your vision. So if you have done all you can to try to see your screen better but still have trouble, it is time to consider seeing an optometrist or ophthalmologist.
Glasses are a great, quick, and relatively inexpensive option and can be made to reduce the effects of computer glare. But if you already had glasses yet still find yourself having to squint or tilt your head in order to properly see your computer screen, you may need a second pair of glasses better suited for computer work. However, if you find you would like a more permanent solution to your vision problems, Dr. Carlson and his staff at Claris Eye Care & Surgery can discuss laser vision correction options with you and determine if you are good candidate for PRK, LASIK, or LASEK. Claris is fully equipped with the tools and an expert team to examine your eyes and diagnose any problems. Claris’s Dr. Keith Carlson, one of the region’s most experienced ophthalmologists, has been helping people from the Minneapolis area see better for nearly 20 years and specializes in laser eye surgery. In contacting Claris, you are on the way to relieving the pain of digital eye strain.