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
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
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.