In such a technology-driven world, it makes sense that many people work with computers every day. But, the numbers are actually a little surprising. In a recent study, Microsoft found that the average worker spends seven hours a day in front of the computer. That’s more time than many people sleep. But, the real issue is that all that screen time can be damaging to your eyes.
Computer vision syndrome (CVS) is a problem that affects 50 to 90 percent of the people who sit and work in front of computers all day. Symptoms of CVS can include itchy and burning eyes, headaches, blurred vision, back pain and neck pain, and even sensitivity to light. You may also feel more tired and exhausted than you would normally. If you experience even just one of these symptoms on a regular basis, you likely are suffering from CVS.
CVS is now the number one computer-related complaint in the United States and the problem just keeps growing. Doctors are seeing more cases every day, with patients coming in complaining of irritation, eye redness, blurry vision and headaches.
CVS Stems from Dry Eyes
Medical professionals say that the symptoms of CVS have a lot to do with not blinking enough. Blinking helps to keep your eyes moist and when you go for long periods of time without blinking, your eyes begin to dry out and can get irritated. When your eyes are in that condition and then you add in the fact that you’re sitting and trying to focus your eyes on the work you’re doing on your computer, you’re putting additional strain on your eyes and that is what leads to computer vision problems.
You may think about reducing the amount of time you spend on the computer, if that’s possible, in order to relieve your symptoms. Doing that will definitely help your symptoms, but CVS isn’t strictly associated with computers. CVS can also become a problem when you use your cell phone, tablet or iPad, or even when watching TV or playing video games.
Since it seems everyone these days has a cell phone glued to their hand all day long, the problem can’t simply be solved by reducing computer time—you also need to reduce the amount of time you spend surfing the web or texting on your cell phone and other gadgets.
In addition to cutting back on using electronic devices, there are also other steps you can take to relieve your symptoms. These steps are especially important for those of you who don’t have the choice to cut back on time spent on the computer because your job requires you to sit in front of one all day.
Relieving the Symptoms
In order to reduce or even prevent the symptoms of CVS, you should force yourself to take regular breaks when working for long periods in front of a screen. For every 10 minutes you spend on the computer you should take 10 seconds to look away at something that is at least 10 feet in the distance. This will give your eyes an opportunity to rest and relax, as well as re-lubricate before you get back to work.
You should also keep a bottle of artificial tears on hand so you can lubricate your eyes periodically throughout the day. Taking frequent breaks is also important, not just for giving your eyes a chance to relax, but so you can stretch out the rest of your body as well. Even just getting up from your desk and walking across the room to grab a cup of coffee would be helpful.
Making sure the room you’re in is lit properly so bright lights are above you and not shining in your eyes or toward your computer is also helpful for relieving symptoms. Pay attention to the brightness of your monitor too. If it’s too bright or not bright enough, it will strain your eyes and irritate them. Your monitor should be the same brightness as the rest of the room so that there isn’t a difference in light when you look from your computer to somewhere else in the room. Your eyes won’t have to work so hard to adjust to the abrupt change in lighting if both the room and your monitor are equally as bright.
Get Your Eyes Checked
If you are experiencing symptoms of CVS, you should have your eyes examined to see if there are any underlying problems that could be contributing to the severity of your symptoms. If you wear corrective lenses, your prescription may have changed or maybe you need to wear corrective lenses if you don’t already.
Your vision plus the symptoms of CVS could be reducing your productivity level at work without you even realizing it. The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Optometry performed a study to look more closely at how CVS can affect a computer worker’s productivity.
The study determined that productivity was lower for workers who wore corrective lenses that did not have strong enough prescriptions and for workers who had vision problems that they were unaware of, meaning they were not wearing corrective lenses when they should have been. The study also showed that the productivity of workers who were not wearing proper corrective lenses was about 20 percent slower than those with proper vision correction.
Obviously, if you’re having difficulties seeing, your work is going to suffer, but in addition to that, the CVS symptoms you will experience if your vision is not being corrected properly will be more severe than that of someone who has either perfect vision or wears glasses or contacts with sufficient prescriptions.
So if you are experiencing CVS symptoms, you should have your eyes examined by your eye doctor to determine if there are any problems that need to be corrected. You can also strengthen your eyes by taking eye-healthy vitamin supplements, which will also help to reduce the CVS symptoms and will make your eyes stronger and healthier in general.