As the foremost authority in vision care, Jackson Davenport Vision Center, located in Summerville, South Carolina, often have patients complain of headaches, brow aches, sore eyes and blurred vision. These are symptoms of computer eye strain. Many of us have jobs that require us to stare at computer screens for hours at a time. That can put a real strain on your eyes. In this article, we will discuss Computer Vision Syndrome, its treatment, and computer applications that can help reduce its effects.
What is Computer Vision Syndrome?
Viewing a computer or digital screen is different than reading a printed page. Often the letters on the computer or handheld device are not as precise or sharply defined, the level of contrast of the letters to the background is reduced, and the presence of glare and reflections on the screen may make viewing difficult. Viewing distances and angles used for this type of work are also often different from those commonly used for other reading or writing tasks. As a result, the eye focusing and eye movement requirements for digital screen viewing can place additional demands on the visual system.
In addition, the presence of even minor vision problems can often significantly affect comfort and performance at a computer or while using other digital screen devices. Uncorrected or under corrected vision problems can be major contributing factors to computer-related eyestrain. Even those who have an eyeglass or contact lens prescription may find that it not suitable for the specific viewing distances of their computer screen. Some tilt their heads at odd angles because their glasses are not designed for looking at a computer, or they bend toward the screen in order to see it clearly. Postures can result in muscle spasms or pain in the neck, shoulder or back.
In most cases, symptoms of Computer Eye Strain occur because the visual demands of the task exceed the visual abilities of the individual to comfortably perform them. At greatest risk for developing CVS or Digital Eye Strain are those persons who spend two or more continuous hours at a computer or using a digital screen device every day., follow the 20-20-20 rule; every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet away.
How Is Computer Vision Syndrome Treated?
A few simple changes to your workspace can improve symptoms and prevent new problems:
Eye care. In some cases, people who do not require the use of eyeglasses for other daily activities may benefit from glasses prescribed specifically for computer use. In addition, those already wearing glasses may find their current prescription does not provide optimal vision for viewing a computer.
- Eyeglasses or contact lenses prescribed for general use may not be adequate for computer work. Lenses prescribed to meet the unique visual demands of computer viewing may be needed. Special lens designs, lens powers or lens tints or coatings may help to maximize visual abilities and comfort.
- Some computer users experience problems with eye focusing or eye coordination that can’t be adequately corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses. A program of vision therapy may be needed to treat these specific problems. Vision therapy, also called visual training, is a structured program of visual activities prescribed to improve visual abilities. It trains the eyes and brain to work together more effectively. These eye exercises help remediate deficiencies in eye movement, eye focusing, and eye teaming and reinforce the eye-brain connection. Treatment may include office-based as well as home training procedures.
Cut the glare. Change the lighting around you to reduce the effect on your computer screen. If light from a nearby window casts a glare, move your monitor and close the shades. Ask your employer to install a dimmer switch for the overhead fixtures if they are too bright, or buy a desk lamp with a moveable shade that casts light evenly over your desk. You can also add a glare filter to your monitor.
Rearrange your desk. The best position for your monitor is slightly below eye level, about 20 to 28 inches away from your face. You should not have to stretch your neck or strain your eyes to see the screen. Put a stand next to your monitor which will serve as a place any printed materials. This way, you will not have to look up at the screen and back down at the desk while you type.
Give your eyes a break. Follow the 20-20-20 rule. Look away from the screen every 20 minutes or so and look at something around 20 feet away for about 20 seconds. Blink often to keep your eyes moist. If they feel dry, try some eye drops.
Tweak your settings. You do not have to live with the factory-installed presets if you are uncomfortable. Adjust the brightness, contrast, and font size until you find what’s best for you.
Download an app. A number of apps are also available to help reduce blue light emission from devices.
Limit screen time. This is especially important for children, who may not make the connection between extended viewing, sore eyes and the need to rest their eyes regularly.
Use artificial tears. Over-the-counter artificial tears can help prevent and relieve the dry eyes associated with Computer Vision Syndrome. Use artificial tears even when your eyes feel fine so they can be kept well-lubricated and prevent a recurrence of symptoms.
Can I Download Apps to Help Reduce the Effects of Computer Vision Syndrome?
Absolutely. Below is a list of popular apps that can help reduce eye strain during computer use.
F.lux is one of the most popular tools for reducing blue light exposure, and best of all, it is completely free to download. The tool is designed to match the amount of light according to the time of day it is by taking your geographical location, the day of the year, and of course time into consideration. With this information, the app determines when the sun is scheduled to set and them adjusts your screen to a warmer, slightly amber-tined hue that minimizes blue light. As you are using your device, you may notice the color of your screen automatically change as f.lux adjusts during a certain evening hour.
SunsetScreen may have one big advantage over f.lux—it keeps the screen brighter in the winter months rather than transitioning too early with the sun. While this may not count as much of an important feature for everyone, some people may benefit from being exposed to brighter blue light in the evening during the winter months even after the sun has gone down. SunsetScreen offers the option to customize your sunrise and sunset times, select a precise color you want for your screen, disable the app temporarily if you need to and so much more.
Iris is a cross-platform application designed to detect whether it is daytime or nighttime and adjust the color of the screen accordingly to reduce blue light. The tool has a wide variety of customizable options such as color temperature, brightness, manual/automatic settings, and lots more. Unfortunately, Iris is not totally free. This tool is not terribly expensive at just $5 for Iris Mini Pro or $10 for Iris Pro. Besides all the amazing customizable options made available by Iris, perhaps the best thing about this tool is it is available for most major desktop and mobile platforms.
The Twilight app allows you to set the color temperature, intensity and screen dim to automatically turn off and on whenever you want. Set it up to be activated from sunrise to sunset, according to your alarm or from a custom setting. The app also includes information on more of the science of how blue light impacts your body and your sleep so you can gain a better understanding of how device use affects your health.
While Computer Vision Syndrome does not permanently damage your eyes, it can be quite painful. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome, contact the optometrists at Jackson Davenport Vision Center to schedule an appointment today.