Computers and Your Vision
By Paula R. Newsome, OD, MS, FAAO
Do you really remember what life was like before the age of computers? Can you remember typing with liquid white out and with those little white correctable strips to correct mistakes instead of pressing a spell check button? If you are like most of us, while we appreciated the days of the days of the adding machine, the typewriter and cash register, computers have taken us to a whole new level of information processing and analyzing. We have never had access to so much information. It is amazing that we are now in a world where IM is standard nomenclature and text messaging is accepted as a vote.
Since we are in technology age, we have come to know a few facts about the computer and how it impacts our comfort during use. The first is that we spend far more time on the computer than we anticipate. How many times have you sat down to check your emails only to find yourself in front of the computer some hour or two later. Since we do spend so much of our day on the computer, we need to insure that we are observing good visual and environmental health to prevent Computer Vision Syndrome.
There are complexes of symptoms called Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). Computer Vision Syndrome is the complex of eye and vision problems related to near work which are experienced during or related to computer use. CVS is characterized by visual symptoms which result from interaction with a computer display or its environment. In most cases, symptoms occur because the visual demands of the task exceed the visual abilities of the individual to comfortably perform the task.* (AOA Clinical Care Guidelines-1999) Some symptoms can include but are not limited to the eyes feeling tired when working on the computer, eyes feeling like gravel while working on the computer, eyes not focusing while on the computer and the list goes on and on.
There are some practices that we can employ to alleviate some of the symptoms of CVS and to insure our computer using experience is all that it can be. To that end, here are some tips that can make your hours of stay on the computer that much more enjoyable and more importantly, more comfortable.
- Make sure that you have enough light in the room with the computer screen. While at work and on the computer, I always try to have a desk lamp on. The more illumination in the room, the better and natural light is always best. If you are on the computer while at work and your employer does not provide any additional lighting, you should consider purchasing a desk lamp to put at your work station. You will be surprised at how much more comfortable your eyes will feel. Also using the computer with little illumination is not good for your eyes or their refractive state.
- Make sure you take visual rest breaks on the hour. When you are looking at the computer screen, your eyes have to accommodate. That means that the lens on the inside of your eye has to flex or bend in order for you to be able to see. In order to relax the lens, rest your eyes or look at a far distance at least 10 minutes on the hour. Try looking out a window or down a hall at least once during that hour. The rule of thumb is for every 50 minutes on the computer, try to break for at least 10 minutes.
- Try this experiment for me. Hold you hand up close to you and then hold it a distance away. Doesn’t your hand look larger the closer you hold it? That same phenomenon occurs when you have a visual dysfunction. If you have a small amount of nearsightedness (myopia) or farsightedness (hyperopia) or astigmatism, it is exaggerated when you work at a closer distance. When working on a computer, make sure that you have on the proper eyewear for your computer’s working distance. Several of my patients even have occupational glasses that they wear specifically when they work on the computer complete with an antireflective coating to decrease glare while working on the screen.
- Try to avoid wearing white while working on the computer. The white causes more reflectance from the screen into your eyes and can also cause glare. If this is unavoidable, then make sure you have lots of additional lighting in the room and preferably on or near your workstation.
The bottom line with your eyes and the computer is that your eye and visual comfort are a key component in your success and longevity using the computer. Employ these tips and I am sure you will find that the next time you log on, you will enjoy hours of fun.