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: Blame Your Office Computer for Your Eye Strain. Also Blame Your Phone, Your TV, Your Tablet…

Blame Your Office Computer for Your Eye Strain. Also Blame Your Phone, Your TV, Your Tablet…

Content Specialist

Lately, I've had some co-workers express concern for my well-being because I've been walking around the office with tears in my eyes. But it's not me that's sad--it's my EYES.


Like so many "office" jobs, mine requires hours spent staring at a computer screen-reading, typing, referencing databases, using the Internet. Computers are essential for conducting business. Unfortunately that dependence can come at a cost to the employees, especially when it comes to eye health.  


According to WebMD, 50 to 90 percent of adults who have jobs that require work at a computer screen experience at least one eye-related problem as a result of extended computer use. It's so common they've even given the condition a name: Computer Vision Syndrome, or CVS. CVS is caused by over exertion of the eye muscles that focus our vision. When we're at the computer or using another electronic device, we use those muscles constantly, forcing them to quickly refocus from one thing to another-both on and off screen.


Symptoms of CVS vary, and can include blurred or double vision, eye irritation, dryness, or redness, headaches, and neck or back pain. Pre-existing eye conditions, such as astigmatism or nearsightedness can exacerbate these symptoms. Aging can also contribute to CVS, because the lens of your eye begins to lose flexibility, making it increasingly difficult for your eyes to focus and refocus. Although the symptoms of CVS stop when you leave the computer and have not been found to have any long-term effects, they can have a negative effect on one's work performance.


CVS: It's Not Your Job's Fault


CVS is not limited to computers at work. Watching TV, using a smartphone or tablet, or playing video games can all contribute to CVS. Unfortunately, this means children are just as susceptible as adults, and we are all still at risk for CVS symptoms, even after we leave the office or classroom.


So what can we do about it? We could suggest ways to cut computers out of our daily grind, but something tells me that wouldn't go over too well. The question is not "What can we do to decrease time spent in front of a computer?" Rather, the question is "What can we do to mitigate the effects of unavoidable extended computer use?" Here are some suggestions:

1. Take a break: Walking or looking away from your screen allows your eyes to take a break from all the focusing and re-focusing required by computer use. The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends 20 second breaks every 15 minutes after 2 or more hours of computer use.


2. Adjust your screen settings: Many computers allow you to change the brightness, color scheme, and font size on your machine.


3. Improve your workspace set up:                                                                                                                                                                                                


a. Learn about proper computer and body positioning. Your computer should be about 20 to 28 inches from your face. If you need to copy from a printout, standing it up next to your screen will minimalize strain on your eyes.


b. Make sure the lighting in your workspace isn't increasing glare or otherwise making it harder for you to see your screen. If you can't change the lighting, try an anti-glare screen cover.


4. Check out the drug store: For symptoms like eye dryness, irritation, and redness, over-the-counter eye drops can work wonders. Your doctor may be able to suggest particular products based on your eyes and symptoms.


5. Visit your eye doctor: The AOA recommends regular eye exams as often as once per year for some populations. At these check-ups, discuss any issues you're having. If you wear contacts or eyeglasses, your regular eye exam is even more critical, because having an incorrect or out-of-date prescription will worsen CVS symptoms and can also cause a number of other problems.


6. Remember that CVS is not just for work or computers: Cutting down on the time you spend in front of ALL your electronic devices will help alleviate CVS symptoms. And when you use your devices for an extended period of time, remember to take breaks, and remind children to do the same.

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