Why did Computer Vision Syndrome start ?
With the rise of the digital economy, more and more people are spending big chunks of their lives sitting in front of computer screens. Office workers, writers, and graphic designers all rely on their computers to provide an income. The average worker spends more than seven hours a day on in front of screens, both in the office or when they get home.
But there’s increasing concern among many professionals that this extended exposure to screens may be having a detrimental effect on our eyes. Research shows that between 50 and 90 percent of people who regularly use screens suffer from at least one of the symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome, or CVS.
It’s not just the working population who are being affected either. With the rise of tablets and smartphones, kids are suffering too, with many spending upwards of eight hours a day staring at their devices.
What Causes Computer Vision Syndrome?
When you’re working at a computer, your eyes are constantly having to focus on the screen in front of you, moving backwards and forwards from one window to another. Although you may think that this is just what your eyes would normally do, it turns out that looking at a computer screen is a lot more taxing. Switching between papers on your desk and your computer screen takes a lot of muscular effort, which can fatigue the sensitive muscles around your eyes, causing pain.
There’s a second problem too. The white light produced by modern flat computer screens comprises a lot of blue light compared to natural light. In natural light, red, green and blue are relatively balanced. However, due to technological constraints, modern screens emit a far greater ratio of blue light to the other primary colors. As it turns out, our eyes don’t have the right ratio of blue light-sensitive cones in the retina to cope with this elevated level of computer monitor blue light. Over the eons, our eyes adapted to see white light comprised of a ratio of blue, green and red and so when we stare at a computer screen, we can end up overloaded, especially if you don’t use a blue-light filter.
Computer vision syndrome may also become more likely as you age. After about the age of 40, the lens at the front of the eye starts becoming less flexible. This makes it harder to focus on near-field objects, like a computer screen.
The good news is there isn’t any evidence at the moment to suggest that computer vision syndrome causes permanent vision problems. There’s no link between CVS and cataracts, for example.
How is Computer Vision Syndrome diagnosed?
Computer vision syndrome can be diagnosed by an eye care professional. To test whether you have CVS, they’ll perform an eye exam. During that exam, they’ll examine how you respond to focusing on objects, like computer screens, in your near-field view. Using this, they may be able to tell you whether you’re suffering from CVS.
Professionals will also look at your history to determine whether your CVS-like symptoms are the result of CVS or something else, including medications you’re taking, other health problems and any other environmental factors that might cause impaired vision.
There is a range of symptoms associated with computer vision syndrome. These include:
● Neck and shoulder pain
● Blurred vision
● Dry eyes
The severity of your symptoms is related to the intensity of your exposure to computer screens. Symptoms are likely to be worse for people with near or farsightedness, thanks to the fact that the eyes must work much harder to focus correctly. If different eyes have different focal lengths, then eye coordination can become a serious challenge, increasing the effort required to perceive on-screen objects.
How is Computer Vision Syndrome Treated?
The good news is that treating computer vision syndrome is relatively straightforward and only requires making a few minor changes to your environment. Here are some of the things you can try.
- Change Your Computer Settings
Every monitor you buy comes pre-installed with particular brightness and contrast settings. These settings are designed to achieve color accuracy – after all, that’s what most consumers care about. But in their effort to achieve color accuracy, monitor manufacturers often create products which can affect sight. The good news, however, is that practically every monitor on the market has inbuilt settings that allow you to change the brightness, contrast, and gamma. The same applies to laptop monitors. For smaller devices, look for apps that allow you to alter the amount of blue light coming from the screen or options which enable you to reduce the brightness at night. Many devices do this automatically.
When you’re working hard on a project for work, the last thing you want to hear is that you need to take a break. But according to experts, these breaks don’t have to last long.
The American Optometric Association recommends that people use the 20-20-20 rule. This is where you take a 20-second break to look at something more than 20 feet away every 20 minutes or so.
Also, remember to blink often. Dry eyes can also lead to the symptoms of CVS.
- Get Your Eyes Checked
The best thing you can do to prevent computer vision syndrome is to get regular eye checkups. The National Institution of Occupational Safety and Health says that those who use computers in their job a regular basis should get an eye exam, both when they first start work and every year after that. Your optician will check to see how your eyes react to focusing at different distances and will be able to tell you whether CVS is affecting your sight.
- Reduce Glare
Many people work in offices where natural light shines on their monitor. This increases glare, making it harder for your brain to make sense of the images on the screen. If you can’t shut out the light, consider getting an anti-glare covering for your monitor. If you wear glasses, you can also use an anti-reflective coating to reduce the glare that arises because of light bouncing off the front and the back of the lens.
- Swap Out Your Old CRT Screen For A Newer Model
When it comes to CVS, some screens are worse than others. Old CRT screens – the screens which have a big box sticking out of the back of them – are generally harsher on the eyes because they flicker during operation. Although this flicker is imperceptible to human vision, it’s still there, and can still have a detrimental effect on the eyes themselves.
If you use an old monitor, it might be time to upgrade. Many modern monitors have rapid refresh rates, some with more than 144 Hz. Look for the highest refresh rate you can find to minimize the effect of flicker.
Also, look for computer monitors with high resolution. The higher the resolution, the more natural images will appear on the screen. Smaller dot pitches are associated with reduced eye strain.
Finally, choose the largest monitor you can. Straining to see text because you’ve got a small 19-inch monitor isn’t ideal. Instead, find a screen with a diagonal length of 24 inches or more. Thanks to falling computer component costs, these monitors are surprisingly affordable.
The good news is that the vast majority of CVS symptoms are temporary and disappear once computer use stops. In some circumstances, however, you may experience prolonged blurriness in your vision, especially when viewing objects at a distance. If in doubt, go and see your local eye professional.