Computer Vision Syndrome: Tips for alleviating its symptoms

Despite the fact that the recommended period for spending in front of a screen of any type of device is a mere two hours, a considerable amount of people spend up to ten hours a day in front of a computer screen and up to four on their mobiles (especially the under-30s), this resulting in overexposure that leads to computer vision syndrome.

Common symptoms associated with Computer Vision Syndrome

Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) describes a group of eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer use, the level of discomfort appearing to increase with the amount of computer use. The most common symptoms associated with CVS are: eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes and, also, neck and should pain. These symptoms are caused by: poor lighting, glare on the computer screen, improper viewing distances, poor seating posture and uncorrected vision problems.

We have to bear in mind that reading something on a computer screen is different to reading a printed page. The letters on the computer screen are often 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 sometimes. Furthermore, viewing distances and angles used for computer 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 computer 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. Uncorrected or under corrected vision problems can be major contributing factors to computer-related eyestrain.

Glasses and Contact LensesComputer Vision Syndrome - Glasses and contact lenses

Some people who use glasses or contact lenses can find that they are not suitable for the specific viewing distances of their computer screen, having to tilt their heads at odd angles because their glasses aren’t designed for looking at a computer. At the same time, people also may have to bend towards the screen in order to see it clearly, these postures resulting in muscle spasms or pain in the neck, shoulder or back.

How can CVS be alleviated?

Exposure to screens is an inevitable part of daily life nowadays for most people – whether for work or leisure – therefore, it is important for us to be aware of this syndrome and try to avoid it. CVS can usually be alleviated by taking into account the following:-

  • Lighting: Avoid glare on screen, especially from overhead lighting and windows.
  • Screen position: Ideally, the screen should be 15 to 20 degrees below eye level (measured from the centre of the screen) and at a distance of 60 centimetres.
  • Rest breaks: Try to 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 minimise your chances of developing ‘dry eye’ when using a computer, make an effort to blink frequently or close your eyes for 20 seconds every once in a while.

As most people find it very difficult, if not impossible, to stick to the recommended periods for computer use, it is also vital to have your eyes checked regularly.

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