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Computer Vision Syndrome: What it is and how it can be prevented

By Apollo 24/7, Published on - 17 September 2021

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Technology has become an integral part of our lives and many of us spend several hours looking at the screen, be it computers, televisions, or smartphones. Screen time is a significant health concern as it leads to eye strain and vision problems which are termed as ‘computer vision syndrome’. This can cause signs and symptoms like watery eyes, headaches, blurred vision, and dry eyes, accompanied by neck and shoulder pain. As the early signs of computer vision syndrome are often overlooked, awareness of the condition is essential towards prevention and management.

What is computer vision syndrome?

A computer vision syndrome, also known as digital eye strain, describes the eye and vision-related problems that occur from the prolonged usage of a computer, mobile phone or other digital devices. Interestingly, it is not just adults who are facing this concern; even children who use tablets and gaming devices display the symptoms of computer vision syndrome. 

The use of digital devices such as phones and laptops has increased across all age groups during the pandemic. Digital devices are being used extensively for entertainment, work, or to stay connected with relatives and friends. Also, virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic is driving an increase in eye strain among children.

Symptoms of computer vision syndrome

Computer vision causes several symptoms that include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Headaches
  • Dry eyes
  • Eye discomfort
  • Eye fatigue
  • Red or itchy eyes
  • Neck and shoulder pain.

Causes of computer vision syndrome

The characteristics of a digital screen and its visual demands are unique when compared to reading printed text. This makes several people vulnerable to developing vision-related symptoms when using digital devices. One may experience the symptoms of computer vision syndrome due to several factors that include:

  • Staring at the screen for long hours causing a decrease in the rate of blinking
  • Poor lighting and glare on the screen making reading more difficult
  • Improper (wrong distance and angle) viewing distances which place additional strain on the eyes
  • Poor seating posture, inappropriate chairs, or improper positioning of the desk or computer screen
  • Uncorrected vision problems such as far-sightedness that increase the severity of symptoms
  • Use of incorrect eyeglasses.

A combination of these factors may cause eye strain. It is also seen that people using a computer blink less which can cause dry eyes which may contribute to computer vision syndrome.

Diagnosis and treatment of computer vision syndrome

A comprehensive eye examination can help diagnose computer vision syndrome. The testing may emphasize visual requirements to see how the eye works at the working distance of a computer. The diagnosis may include:

  • Review of symptoms, health issues, or any factors causing computer vision syndrome.
  • Visual acuity test to assess the health of the eye and the degree to which vision may be affected.
  • Refraction test to determine the appropriate lens power required for refractive errors such as nearsightedness or farsightedness. This helps doctors to offer the correct prescription for eyeglasses.
  • Focusing tests to determine how both the eyes focus, move and work together.

Treatment of computer vision syndrome - Treatment involves regular eye care and making changes towards the usage of digital devices. Eye drops may be prescribed in the case of dry eyes. However, treatment mainly focuses on managing the condition with a few lifestyle changes.

Tips to prevent and manage computer vision syndrome

A few tips to prevent and manage eye strain and discomfort associated with computer vision syndrome include:

  • Blinking more frequently – Blinking can help to moisten the eyes, preventing eye dryness and irritation. One should make a conscious effort to blink more while using a computer to reduce eye strain.
  • Taking rest breaks – When using a computer for long periods, one must rest the eyes for about 15 minutes after every two hours of use. For every 20 minutes, one should practice viewing something else at a distance of 20 feet for 20 seconds (20-20-20 rule).
  • Seating position Using comfortable chairs with good back support is important while working on a computer. One should sit up straight and keep the shoulders relaxed. The height of the chairs should be adjusted such that the feet rest flat on the floor. Arms should be positioned to provide support while typing without having to rest the wrists on the keyboard.
  • Positioning the computer screen One must consider viewing the computer screen 15 to 20 degrees below the eye level and at a distance of 20 to 28 inches from the eyes.
  • Reducing screen glare – Screen glare can be minimized by using screen glare filters to decrease the amount of light reflected from the screens.
  • Adjusting lighting in the room – It is important to avoid glare on the computer screen, especially from windows or overhead lighting. Replacing the light bulbs with that of lower wattage bulbs and using blinds or curtains can help.
  • Using the right eyeglasses – It is crucial to wear correctly prescribed eyeglasses. Eyeglasses with incorrect specifications can make it difficult for the eyes to focus properly, increasing the risk of eye strain and headaches.
  • Scheduling regular eye examination – A routine eye examination is vital to detect any issues with vision in its early stages.
  • Exercising when sitting for a long time – People involved in a sedentary job using computers for long hours must stand up and move from time to time. Taking a walk, stretching the muscles, etc. can reduce visual fatigue and stress.
  • Using protective eyewear – People who work continuously on computers can consider using customized computer glasses to protect the eyes.
  • Eye exercises - Eye exercises can help prevent or manage eye strain. They help correct deficiencies in eye movement, focusing, and eye teaming (co-ordination of both eyes when pointing at an object).

Conclusion

Computers and smartphone usage for prolonged time is unavoidable for most of us. Hence, it is crucial to understand that prevention is the main strategy in the management of computer vision syndrome. Making small changes to the working environment and proper eye care can go a long way in reducing eye strain. Since children may have different needs in using a computer or other digital devices comfortably, a few simple precautions and practices can help them cultivate proper viewing habits.

For any vision-related queries, you can speak to an eye specialist.

You can also explore a range of eye care products to keep your eyes healthy and free from infections.

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