Technology has simplified life in so many ways. Thanks to their tablets and smartphones, many people now have a wealth of information at their disposal 24 hours a day, seven days week.
Computers, tablets and smartphones can now be seen just about everywhere, so it’s no wonder that studies have shown that as much as 90 percent of computer users have reported symptoms of computer vision syndrome, or CVS. Sometimes referred to as digital eye strain, CVS is, according to the American Optometric Association, an umbrella term used to describe a group of eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer use. Manhattan Vision Associates notes that such problems can arise in people who spend two or more hours daily in front of a screen, a qualifier that means just about anyone, from working professionals to children, is susceptible to CVS.
What are the symptoms of CVS?
No two individuals are the same, and some people who spend significant amounts of time may never develop CVS. But those who do may experience the following symptoms.
• Eyestrain: When people spend ample time staring at screens, the muscles of their inner eyes can strain and tighten and cause eye irritation. This can result in fatigue and pain.
• Blurred vision: Blurred vision can compromise a person’s ability to see small details. That loss of sharpness can make it hard to focus on a screen for a significant amount of time. In addition, vision can blur as people go back and forth between their keyboards and screens or multiple screens, as many people do while simultaneously working on a computer and using their smartphones.
• Headaches: Many people develop headaches after staring at screens for prolonged periods of time. That’s because the brightness and contrast of a screen can produce an indirect glare that’s especially hard on the eyes.
• Dry eyes: People do not blink as often when staring at screens as they do when they are not looking at screens. As a result, people are vulnerable to dry eyes when staring at screens, as blinking is one of the ways the eyes replenish moisture.
Can CVS be prevented?
While some people may be inclined to accept CVS as a side effect of living in the 21st century, there are ways to prevent CVS.
• Take frequent breaks. The AOA recommend that people alleviate digital eye strain by following the 20-20-20 rule. This rule advises taking 20 second breaks to stare at something 20 feet away every 20 minutes.
• Reposition your computer screen. The AOA notes that the optimal location for computer screens is between 15 and 20 degrees below eye level, or about four to five inches, as measured from the center of the screen. In addition, position the screen so it is between 20 and 28 inches from your eyes.
• Avoid glare. Computer screens also should be positioned to avoid glare from lighting and windows. Draw blinds or drapes if sun is shining in on the screen, and opt for low wattage light bulbs in desk lamps.
• Blink more. Make a concerted effort to blink more throughout the day so your eyes remain as moist as possible.
The average time people spend staring at screens continues to rise, making CVS a legitimate concern for adults and children alike. Learn more about CVS and how to prevent it at www.aoa.org.