Computer Vision Syndrome: The 'Eyes' Have It

As we’ve all feared…

Dr. Reitano has a condition called computer vision syndrome. She is hardly alone. It can affect anyone who spends three or more hours a day in front of computer monitors, and the population at risk is potentially huge.

Worldwide, up to 70 million workers are at risk for computer vision syndrome, and those numbers are only likely to grow. In a report about the condition written by eye care specialists in Nigeria and Botswana and published in Medical Practice and Reviews, the authors detail an expanding list of professionals at risk — accountants, architects, bankers, engineers, flight controllers, graphic artists, journalists, academicians, secretaries and students — all of whom “cannot work without the help of computer.”

And that’s not counting the millions of children and adolescents who spend many hours a day playing computer games.

Studies have indicated 70 percent to 90 percent of people who use computers extensively, whether for work or play, have one or more symptoms of computer vision syndrome. The effects of prolonged computer use are not just vision-related. Complaints include neurological symptoms like chronic headaches and musculoskeletal problems like neck and back pain.

Raise your hand if you think this may be affecting you (that is, if your neck and shoulders aren’t too sore).

I’ve been writing a lot on computers for years, but never as much as in the last two. I decided to curtail traveling and live appearances while my daughter finished high school and have been writing full time. In that time I have come to the conclusion that sitting a lot and staring at a computer may wreck the human body more than all that manual labor our ancestors had to do.

Then again, I could just be epitomizing the “first world problems” mentality.

Still, I’ve noticed a host of ills brought on by the sedentary staring way of making a living. My eyeglasses/contacts prescription had its first significant change in probably fifteen years during this time. True, I’m getting older, but my eyes have never really been too bad, even though I’ve worn glasses since I was 19.

The neck pain has become a real problem, especially when I get on a roll while writing.

Since most of us who would be plagued by these problems have to be at our computers, it helps to know what to do to minimize them.

Keep blinking. It washes your eyes in naturally therapeutic tears.

Remember 20-20-20. Every 20 minutes, spend 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away, minimum.

Get the right light. Good lighting isn’t just flattering – it’s healthy for your eyes. So, keep bright lighting overhead to a minimum. Keep your desk lamp shining on your desk, not you. Try to keep window light off to the side, rather than in front or behind you. Use blinds and get a glare screen. Position the computer screen to reduce reflections from windows or overhead lights.

Monitor your monitor. Keep it at least 20 inches from your eyes. Center should be about 4 to 6 inches below your eyes. Also, make sure it’s big enough and with just the right brightness and contrast. Adjust the screen so you look at it slightly downward and are about 24 to 28 inches away. Adjust the screen settings to where they are comfortable — contract polarity, resolution, flicker, etc.

Wear those computer glasses. Your doctor can prescribe a pair of eyeglasses just for viewing the computer screen well. If necessary, wear the appropriate corrective lenses while at the computer.

I have always thought that the “computer glasses” were an unnecessary up-sell but am now going to seriously consider getting some.

For now, let’s all remember to keep blinking.

Yeah, first world problems.