You get up in the morning and check your email, the latest news, and the weather forecast. Then you spend your day on and off your smartphone and computer and make time to relax in front of the TV. Well, all that screen time is taking a toll on your eyes.
The new epidemic in America? Computer vision syndrome (CVS). This is not one specific eye problem, but a whole range of eye strain and pain experienced by computer users. Working adults aren’t the only ones vulnerable to the effect of computers on eye health and computer vision syndrome long-term effects. Adults who spend a lot of time on their smartphones or computers for information, hobbies, or social media are also at risk.
And the next generation kids who are relentless about staring non-stop at mobile video games – you’ve seen these kids! – or who use computers throughout the day at school can also experience eye damage from computer screens. The problem is aggravated when the lighting and computer position is less than ideal.
Computer Vision Syndrome: Know Your Risk
If there is a fair amount of screen time in your life, you’re likely at risk for pc eye strain and computer vision syndrome long-term effects. Our eyes just weren’t made for hours of computer use, day-in, day-out. The American Optometric Association estimates there are more than 10 million visits to eye doctors every year for computer vision syndrome-related problems.
If you spend more than two hours daily in front of a computer screen – be honest here – you have a 90 percent chance to develop CVS. Experts suggest without proper vision correction, worker productivity can decrease by as much as 20 percent. Computer eye strain is the first computer-related complaint. Our health issues, including those for our eyes, have repercussions not only on our individual careers but the economy in general. If our workforce is primarily knowledge-based (and that means a lot of computer time), computer vision syndrome long-term effects are a very real and present danger.
Computer Vision Syndrome: Causes
Why does starting at screens jeopardize our eye health? They require the eyes to focus continuously, move back and forth, and align with what you are seeing. Your eyes, whether you realize it or not, are working hard. If you look down at papers and then back up to type, there’s more effort. Your eyes have to accommodate changing images on the screen, or rapid-fire text messages, to create a clear picture for the brain to interpret.
This is challenging for eye muscles. Unlike a book or paper, a computer screen means your eyes have to deal with screen contrast, flicker, and glare. Add to the mix, if you already have an eye problem, such as near-sightedness or astigmatism, or wear the wrong eyeglass prescription for computer use, you’re more likely to experience computers’ negative effect on eye health.
As you age, computer work is even harder on your eyes because your eye lens is less flexible. Your ability to focus on near and far objects starts to diminish around age 40, which is why computer vision syndrome prevention is so important.
Computer Vision Syndrome: Signs and Symptoms
Computer vision syndrome long-term effects do not cause vision loss or cataracts. However, regular screen use will cause serious eye strain, discomfort, and loss of productivity. You and your eyes will “burn out” if you don’t take steps toward computer vision syndrome prevention. If you have computer vision syndrome, you may experience some or all of these symptoms:
- Blurred vision
- Double vision
- Dry, red eyes
- Eye irritation
- Neck, shoulder or back pain
How is Computer Vision Syndrome Diagnosed?
Computer vision syndrome is often diagnosed through a comprehensive eye examination. Testing usually begins with the doctor looking into the patient’s history. This will determine any symptoms that the patient is experiencing and include the presence of any general health problems, medications taken, or environmental factors that could contribute to the symptoms they are facing. Visual acuity measurements are taken to assess the extent to which the patient’s vision may be affected.
The optometrist will then use refraction to determine the appropriate lens power needed to compensate for any errors in vision, including near-sightedness, far-sightedness, or astigmatism. They will then test the eyes to see how they focus, move, and work together. This test will look for problems that keep the eyes from focusing effectively or make it difficult for the eyes to work together.
For some of the testing, eye drops may help dilate the pupils and help keep the eyes from changing focus while testing is done. Gathering all of the information from testing, an optometrist can determine if computer vision syndrome or digital eye strain is present.
Computer Vision Syndrome and Dry Eyes
Computer vision syndrome can cause a variety of symptoms, but what many don’t know is that it considerably slows your blink rate, which may lead to dry eye conditions. Your doctor will check for dry eye during an evaluation, but unfortunately, eye drops can’t eliminate all symptoms. Dry eye could also be caused by many other eye health and general health conditions, so it is essential to seek proper eye evaluations and care if you are experiencing any symptoms.
Computer Vision Syndrome and Contact Lenses
One question that often gets asked is, can wearing contact lenses affect computer vision syndrome? The simple answer is yes. Due to the blink rate and dry eye conditions often associated with computer vision syndrome, patients who spend long viewing hours on screens tend to prefer to wear eyeglasses instead of contact lenses.
Simple Tips to Avoid Computer Vision Syndrome
Make computer eye strain relief a priority to protect your eyes. Here are key tips from the Mayo Clinic to put into practice:
Blink more often—Blinking is a natural way our bodies refresh our eyes. Though, most of us blink less than average when we’re working at a computer or on our smartphone. We end up with dry, tired, and irritated eyes. Blinking produces tears that moisten and refresh your eyes. So, you need to make a conscious effort to blink more often.
Take eye breaks—Before your eyes decide to go on strike (and leave you with all those ill symptoms), give your eyes a break by forcing them to focus on something other than on your screen. Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take your eyes off your computer and look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Moving your body helps, too: Get up and move around at least once every hour. Another trick is to lean back and close your eyes for a few moments.
Try self-massage—Massage your eyelids and muscles over your brow, temple, and upper cheek once or twice daily. Use your bare hands and fingers or a warm towel over closed eyes. Why? This can stimulate your tear glands to help prevent dry eyes. Massaging the muscles in the area around your eye also helps relax those muscles, which may reduce some of the symptoms of eye strain.
Check the lighting and reduce glare—Bright lighting and too much glare can put a strain on your eyes and make it difficult to see objects on your screen. Sit at your computer with the monitor off to check the glare factor. The worst problems are from sources above or behind you, including fluorescent lighting and sunlight.
Consider using artificial teardrops—Over-the-counter artificial tears can help prevent and relieve dry eyes that result from prolonged sessions at the computer. Lubricating drops that don’t contain preservatives can be used as often as you need. If the drops you’re using drops that contain preservatives, don’t use them more than four times a day.
Practice relaxation—Ease muscle tension with relaxation exercises. Place your elbows on your desk, palms facing up. Let your weight fall forward, and your head fall into your hands. Position your head so that your hands cover your eyes, with your fingers extended toward your forehead. Close your eyes and take a deep breath through your nose; hold it for four seconds, then exhale. Continue this deep breathing for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat several times a day and make it a habit!
Adjust the position of your computer monitor—Most people don’t realize that the position of their computer screen could be straining their neck and their eyes. This could result in headaches and blurry vision. A computer screen should be between 20-28 inches from your eyes.
Use the 20-20-20 rule—When using the computer for extended periods of time, make time for frequent breaks. Every 20 minutes, look away from the computer and look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This can give the eyes a chance to refocus.
Keep your eyes hydrated—Just like the other organs in the body, the eyes need to stay hydrated to work at optimal performance. The best lubrication for the eyes is natural tears, so remember to blink occasionally while using digital screens. If your eyes are continuously dry, consider over the counter eye drops.
Improve your posture through exercise—Having proper posture while sitting at a computer can mean the difference between experiencing computer vision syndrome or not. If you have weak back or neck muscles, try to incorporate light stretching and exercise into a daily routine to improve strength and posture.
Get the right eyewear—If you wear glasses or contacts, make sure the correction is right for computer work – most lenses are fitted for reading print, not screens. Glasses or contact lenses designed specifically for computer work may be a worthwhile investment.
Give Your Eyes a Boost with Healthy Lifestyle Habits
Computer vision syndrome can be avoided with these simple tips to make screen time easier on the eyes. If you can cut back a little and get outdoors for a quick walk to break up your day, even better! Studies have shown that good lifestyle habits, too, like healthy eating and regular exercise, will give your eyes a boost as well.
Regular eye exams and proper viewing habits can help to prevent or reduce the symptoms associated with computer vision syndrome. Be sure to get consistent check-ups and follow the advice of your optometrist. You only get one set of eyes, to be sure to take good care of them.
Get regular eye exams—Just like regular physicals are important for overall health, regular eye exams can ensure healthy vision. Even a slight problem with eyesight that goes unchecked can cause computer vision syndrome.
Eat a healthy diet—What you include in your diet can greatly impact your vision. By eating a diet rich in foods that contain nutrients and vitamins for vision, you can help to protect your eyes. Some of the best foods for vision include carrots, eggs, greens, and salmon.
Sleep—Life gets busy, and sometimes there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day. But sleep is essential for the body to function at its full potential. Lack of sleep has been found to cause eye problems. Sleep allows the eyes the rest and rejuvenate with properties it needs to operate correctly.
Exercise—Regular exercise is important to prevent certain eye conditions linked to obesity, including glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration. Most doctors recommend exercising at least three times per week for 30 minutes.
Stop smoking—Another reason to stop smoking. It has been directly linked to two of the leading causes of vision loss, cataracts and macular degeneration. By cutting out smoking, your eye health and quality of vision can drastically improve.
So, keep everything in moderation – including those late-night video game sessions!