What is Computer Vision Syndrome?
The average American employee spends approximately seven hours a day working on a computer, whether in the office or at home. This prolonged exposure to digital screens can negatively affect vision. As a result, numerous Americans suffer from computer vision syndrome (CVS). Also known as digital eye strain, CVS describes a group of eye- and vision-related problems resulting from prolonged computer, tablet, cell phone, or e-reader use.
Causes and Symptoms of Computer Eye Strain
Viewing text on a digital screen significantly differs from reading printed material. Often, the text displayed on a screen lacks precision and sharpness. Additionally, a reduced contrast between the lettering and background causes harm to vision. As a result, your eyes work harder than they usually do, leading to various uncomfortable symptoms.
Common causes of computer eye strain include:
- Poor lighting
- Reduced blinking
- Uncorrected vision problems
- Poor posture while working
- Screen glares
- Viewing the screen at an incorrect angle or distance
Furthermore, chronic dry eye patients often experience exacerbated symptoms from prolonged screen use. Typically, the reduced blinking frequency while viewing a screen causes dry eye patients discomfort. In many cases, CVS symptoms occur because the visual task demands exceed the person’s ability to complete it.
Symptoms commonly seen in those suffering from digital eye strain include:
- Eye discomfort
- Blurred vision
- Itchy eyes
- Redness in the eyes
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Dry eye
- Double vision
Reducing Computer Screen Eye Strain
Although your work obligations may keep you from avoiding computer screens entirely, you can try various methods depending on your symptoms to reduce discomfort.
1. Adjust Your Eyeglasses
If you wear prescription eyeglasses, speak with your optometrist regarding special lenses or coatings that reflect screen glares. Thanks to the specially made lenses or coatings working to minimize glare, your eyes will stay comfortable. Additionally, ensure that your prescription remains correct, as untreated vision problems may worsen symptoms.
2. Use Eye Drops
Our blinking rate plummets when we focus on a task for long periods. A reduced blink rate and excessive screen exposure can significantly dry your eyes. However, eye drops can ensure your eyes stay adequately lubricated while using the computer or a handheld device. Whether over-the-counter or prescription, eye drops can help alleviate dryness, itchiness, discomfort, and redness.
3. Adjust Your Computer Monitor
Not only does the proper placement of your computer monitor reduce glares, but it can also improve your posture. Ideally, position your monitor 20-26 inches away from your face at a height where your eyes naturally gravitate toward the middle. Doing so eliminates the need to hunch forward or stretch your neck to view your screen.
For those experiencing excessive dry eye symptoms, positioning your monitor just below eye level can help reduce tear evaporation. The monitor blocks any additional air exposure that could enter your eyes—using a larger monitor, if possible, can also benefit you.
4. Change Your Computer Settings
Since you can’t avoid the computer screen, you can adjust some settings to ease eye discomfort. For instance, enlarging text and ensuring appropriate brightness settings (not too bright or too dark) can alleviate eye strain. You can also purchase a glare filter over your screen to mitigate unwanted light.
5. Alter Your Office Lighting
Although you may have a gorgeous office view, keeping your computer away from any windows is in your best interest. Glares from other light sources can further irritate your eyes if you sit directly in front of the window. Conversely, sitting with your back toward the window causes glares on the screen itself. Invest in blinds or curtains to control the light exposure if you have to sit by a window.
Replace any overhead fluorescent lights with tabletop lamps to minimize glare from above. Switching your light source to lower, softer wattage bulbs relaxes your eyes. However, when you use a tabletop lamp, make sure to point it toward the desk rather than your face.
6. Use the 20/20/20 Rule
Adjusting your physical workstation is essential, but you can also practice eye exercises to ease discomfort even further. Doing so allows your eyes to focus on objects other than the screen and gives them a break. For instance, to complete the 20/20/20 rule:
- Focus your eyes on an object about 20 feet away
- Hold your gaze for 20 seconds before returning to work
- Repeat every 20 minutes
Practicing the 20/20/20 rule reduces strain and fatigue on your eye muscles. Frequent breaks can not only ease your eye discomfort but also boost your productivity. Instead, time spent rubbing, itching, and closing your eyes can be used to focus on your tasks.
7. Stay Hydrated
Since many symptoms of dry eye and computer eye strain occur due to a lack of moisture, whether from less blinking or another, you must stay hydrated. If you stare at a computer screen for hours but don’t drink enough water, your symptoms significantly worsen. Therefore, drink at least eight glasses of water throughout the day to ensure you’ve taken all the necessary steps to alleviate symptoms.
8. Schedule an Appointment at the Dry Eye Institute
If you’ve tried everything suggested to eliminate discomfort from dry eye or strain, and you’re still struggling, visit Dr. Bourn of the Dry Eye Institute. A deeper issue might play a role in your symptoms. Our optometrists utilize industry-leading technology to identify the root cause of your condition and treat it accordingly.
Start Your Journey to Relief
At the Dry Eye Institute of St. Louis, our team specializes in diagnosing and treating dry eye disease. Many factors can influence dry eye onset, including prolonged computer use. After performing tests with our specialized equipment, we’ll thoroughly explain your condition and how to best treat it. Don’t let computer eye strain symptoms keep you from focusing – take our dry eye survey and schedule an appointment with us today!