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Understanding Computer Vision Syndrome

Person typing on a computerIt is estimated that over 100 million people use a computer for work, thereby staring almost continuously at screens for up to eight hours a day. An increasing number of individuals also use computers in their daily lives outside of work.  As a result, visual difficulties related to too much screen usage is on the rise.

What is Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS)?

According to the American Optometric Association, computer vision syndrome (CVS) is the “complex of eye and vision problems related to near work experienced during or connected with computer work.” Digital eye strain is a version of CVS related to the hand-held digital devices that 96 percent of Americans use every day.

What are common symptoms of CVS?

  • Eyestrain
  • Light sensitivity (photophobia)
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Head, neck, shoulder or backaches
  • Dry, burning, or irritated eyes

Symptoms emerge from the near-viewing of computers and digital devices for extended periods of time. The level of discomfort increases as the amount of digital screen usage increases.

Why do people develop CVS? 

CVS may develop for a number of reasons, including:

  • Constant computer use: Using a computer for extended periods of time can put a strain on the visual system.
  • Existing eye troubles: Not wearing prescribed glasses or having the incorrect prescription can cause further damage.
  • Age: Around the age of 40, the ability to focus on near and far objects is harder as the eyes become less flexible - a condition known as presbyopia.
  • Position of the computer screen: A screen too high reduces the ability to focus and may cause additional strain on the eyes.
  • Blue light: Blue light from computer screens can disrupt sleep cycles and impair memory.

Tips for minimizing problems associated with CVS:

  • Use the 20-20-20 rule: Look away from the screen every 20 minutes and stare at something about 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
  • Change brightness and contrast: Change the computer monitor’s brightness and contrast to more comfortable level. You can also reduce screen glare by using shades or blinds on nearby windows.
  • Adjust seating: Use an adjustable chair to sit at a comfortable height. The screen should be positioned at a downward 10-20 degree angle and located at an approximate viewing distance of 24 inches.
  • Special prescription eyewear: A computer screen is at a different distance than the typical reading distance; therefore it’s essential that the right prescription is in place. Special prescription eyewear with anti-reflective coating to block screen glare is also available specifically for computer use.

The Eye Institute (TEI) offers a variety of services to treat patients experiencing symptoms of computer vision syndrome including comprehensive eye exams, specialty eyewear solutions, and vision therapy. To schedule an appointment at TEI, call 215.276.6111.