Computer Vision: Are You at Risk?

By Rebecca Jones

For most of us staring at the screen of our computer, smart phone or tablet isn’t just a past time but a way of life. Unfortunately all that time spent surfing the web or filling out spread sheets could be taking a toll on your vision. If you spend more than two hours a day staring at a screen or monitor you could be at risk for what some experts are calling computer vision syndrome (CVS), while most of CVS’s symptoms are more annoying than dangerous there is a chance that staring at your computer today could lead to long term vision problems in the future.

What is CVS

The human eye is not evolutionarily prepared for a desk job; our eyes evolved to view three dimensional images. When the eye has to find three dimensional images on a two dimensional screen it tends to overwork itself and become strained. On top of that, the human eye’s natural focal point is about twenty feet into the distance. With the average person sitting less than two feet away from their computer screen the eye has to maintain a constant ring of contracting muscles in order to see the screen clearly. After being forced to work so hard these muscles can forget how to relax and cause major irritation. Computer Vision affects 90% of the population that spends three or more hours a day on a computer according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

Symptoms of CVS

  • Blurred Vision
  • Headaches
  • Eye Redness and Irritation
  • Difficulty Focusing
  • Double Vision
  • Eye Dryness
  • Neck Pain

While most of these symptoms will go away within a few minutes of looking away from the screen, some experts are concerned that long term CVS can lead to permanent nearsightedness. Another major concern is that constant dryness leaves your eyes vulnerable to infection. People looking at computer screens tend to blink only 6 times a minute. Compared to the normal average of 16 times per minute, that leaves the eyes vulnerable to serious dryness as well as irritation of dust and dirt.

How to Protect Your Vision

The good news is that you don’t need to throw out your phone or quit your day job to protect your eyes. Just making a conscious effort to blink more often can be the first line of defense against CVS. A good rule to follow is the 20-20-20 rule recommended by the American Optometric Association; every twenty minutes look away from your computer at something approximately twenty feet in the distance for twenty seconds. Another way to ease eye strain is to ensure that the top of computer monitor is at eye level. Your eyes focus more easily when they are looking downward and this can also prevent dryness. If you are still concerned that your eyes are strained ask your optometrist about being prescribed computer glasses. These lenses help reduce eye strain for your mid-range vision as opposed to the traditional near- or farsighted options.