Bookmark and Share

Computer Vision Syndrome

Adolescents who spend a lot of time on the computer may be at risk of developing eye stain or "computer vision syndrome." According to the American Optometric Association, Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) describes a group of eye and vision related problems that result from prolonged computer use

The most common symptoms associated with Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) are:

  • eyestrain
  • headaches
  • blurred vision
  • dry eyes
  • neck and shoulder pain

These symptoms may be caused by:

  • poor lighting
  • glare on the computer screen
  • improper viewing distances
  • poor seating posture
  • uncorrected vision problems
  • a combination of these factors

Many individuals experience eye discomfort and vision problems when viewing a computer screen for extended periods. The level of discomfort increases with the amount of computer use. Some of the short-term effects of eye strain and computer use are well documented but as to whether computer screens cause permanent damage over time, the data has not been conclusive.

Many of the visual symptoms experienced by computer users are only temporary and will fade away after stopping computer work. However, when individuals experience continued visual problems, such as blurred distance vision, even after stopping work at a computer then it is possible that there could be an underlying eye disorder that is made worse by prolonged exposure to computer screen. If you are having regular difficulty with your eye sight you should be seen by an Ophthalmologist (a medical doctor who is specialized in eye and vision care.)

Some important factors in preventing or reducing the symptoms of CVS have to do with the computer and how it is used:

  • Location of computer screen - Most people find it more comfortable to view a computer when the eyes are looking downward. Optimally, the computer screen should be 15 to 20 degrees below eye level (about 4 or 5 inches) as measured from the center of the screen and 20 to 28 inches from the eyes.
  • Reference materials - These materials should be located above the keyboard and below the monitor. If this is not possible, a document holder can be used beside the monitor. The goal is to position the documents so you do not need to move your head to look from the document to the screen.
  • Lighting - Position the computer screen to avoid glare, particularly from overhead lighting or windows. Use blinds or drapes on windows and replace the light bulbs in desk lamps with bulbs of lower wattage.
  • Anti-glare screens - If there is no way to minimize glare from light sources, consider using a screen glare filter. These filters decrease the amount of light reflected from the screen.
  • Seating position - Chairs should be comfortably padded and conform to the body. Chair height should be adjusted so your feet rest flat on the floor. If your chair has arms, they should be adjusted to provide arm support while you are typing. Your wrists shouldn't rest on the keyboard when typing.
  • Rest breaks - To prevent eyestrain, try to rest your eyes when using the computer for long periods. Rest your eyes for 15 minutes after two hours of continuous computer use. Also, for every 20 minutes of computer viewing, look into the distance for 20 seconds to allow your eyes a chance to refocus.
  • Blinking - To minimize your chances of developing dry eye when using a computer, make an effort to blink frequently. Blinking keeps the front surface of your eye moist. You can also use liquid tears as needed--avoid the red out variety since you will end up with a rebound feature.

Some exercises have been developed that may help relieve eye strain. One such exercise, called palming, involves covering the eyes with the palms of the hands for about three minutes. The eyes should be so tightly covered that nothing is visible. This exercise should be repeated until the eyes no longer feel tired. Another exercise that may help relieve eye strain involves closing the eyes and keeping them closed for about nine seconds, and then repeating the process about a dozen times. Eye exercises are generally easy to do and can be performed most anywhere. They are believed to force the eyes to rest, and may induce the eyes to produce their own lubrication.

Changes in eyesight (nearsightedness) can appear at any time in life that is unrelated to computer use.  If your parents need glasses for distance, there is a good chance that you will too.  In any case, getting examined by an ophthalmologist is the best way to go.