Can too much computer work really hurt my eyes?
In this day in age, most people would not be able to function efficiently without the knowledge of how to use a computer. Computers are part of our lives now; from our jobs to our hobbies, to even finding a restaurant for date night. The growing use of computers in the home and office comes with an increase in health risks, especially for the eyes. One eye problem, called Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), afflicts more and more people who find themselves continually in front of computer screens, tablets, or e-readers. There has yet to be any documented permanent damage to the visual system, however the effects can last well after computer use stops, up to 5-8 hours.
What causes CVS? Just like any near work, viewing a computer screen makes the eyes have to focus and work hard. The letters on the screen are not as precise or sharply defined as letters on paper; the level of contrast of the letters to the background of the screen is reduced as well as increased glare on the screen, makes viewing the computer a very daunting task to your eyes. In most cases, symptoms of CVS occur because the visual demands of the task exceed the visual abilities of the eyes able to perform them. Those who spend more than two continuous hours in front of the computer are at greater risk to developing CVS.
The most common symptoms of CVS include:
- Blurred vision and/or eyestrain
- Blurred vision may occur not only during computer work, but more commonly up to many hours after stopping computer use. The reason is the eye muscles can become “locked” due to continued focus at a specific working distance, i.e. the computer. When this happens, the muscles begin to spasm, which creates a temporary blur in distance vision.
- Dry eyes (watery, burning, and gritty sensations)
- Neck and shoulder pain
These symptoms are usually caused by:
- Incorrect glasses or contact lens prescriptions
- Poor lighting/glare from the computer screen
- Improper viewing distance from the computer
- Poor seating postures
- Environmental conditions of the workspace (air vent blowing, low humidity)
How is CVS diagnosed? Your optometrist will be able to diagnose the condition through a comprehensive eye examination. Testing, with special emphasis on visual requirements at your specific computer working distance, may include: a good history, visual acuities, a refraction to determine appropriate lens power, and testing to asses how the eyes are working together and focusing at your specific computer viewing distance.