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What is Computer Vision Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention

What is Computer Vision Syndrome?

Computer vision syndrome refers to a group of vision or eye related problems that a person experiences, when a person is constantly looking at the screen of a computer, tablet, mobile phone or e-reader. People who are constantly looking at such digital screens experience discomfort and certain problems related to the eye and subsequent vision. The amount of time spent while exposed to the digital screen seems to directly affect the symptoms of such problems. In today’s world, when half of our time is spent doing work on the screen, it is hardly possible to escape from the possibilities of developing computer vision syndrome.

What is Computer Vision Syndrome?

What are the Symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome?

On an average, a regular American spends around 7 hours a day looking at the computer screen, either working from office or working from home. The following may be classified as the symptoms of computer vision syndrome:

These symptoms may be primarily associated with the amount of time that is spent looking at the computer screen. The inherent capabilities of the eye are also to be accounted. The visual abilities that a person possesses in general are also of great importance here. Vision problems that are not corrected or not given proper attention may also lead to the development of computer vision syndrome. Vision problems, such as astigmatism, farsightedness and problems related to the adjustment of the lens or poor coordination skills of the eyes can also lead to computer vision syndrome. All other vision problem, including the ones that develop through age-like presbyopia may also contribute to the development of the computer vision syndrome.

The symptoms that have already been discussed of computer vision syndrome are, in most cases, temporary. The symptoms of computer vision syndrome also subside as one reduces or stops spending time looking at the digital screen. For some people, however, the symptoms do not recede even when the person has stopped using digital screens. Prolonged effects, such as blurry vision at a distance, may be caused. If these symptoms are not heeded, and if no steps are taken in order to eradicate them or at least treat them, the condition of computer vision syndrome worsens causing permanent damage to the eyes if the time spent looking at the computer screen is not radically reduced.

What are the Causes of Computer Vision Syndrome?

The symptoms of computer vision syndrome are primarily caused by:

  • Glare on the digital screen.
  • Poor lighting of the room.
  • Poor sitting posture.
  • Improper distance between the screen and the user.
  • Uncorrected vision problems.
  • All or few of these factors combined.

Common Causes Of Computer Vision Syndrome Are:

Pre-Existing Eye Problems: Looking at the computer screen makes the eyes work harder. The unique characteristics of the eyes, as well as the increased demands while using the computer screen or the digital screen makes a person more susceptible to developing computer vision syndrome or related symptoms. As already mentioned, if one possesses a number of uncorrected vision problems, then it will potentially add to the severity of the problems caused by the computer vision syndrome. The already existing eye problems aggravate the symptoms and make it even more difficult for the patient.

Poor Screen Contrast: When we view a page, it is far less strenuous than when we view a screen. In case of a computer screen, often the letters or objects are not sharply defined and the black and white contrast on the letters is really inadequate and poorly done in contrast to the level optimized for the human eye. While reading or viewing from a computer screen, the presence of glare or reflections, make it even worse for the viewer.

Under Corrected Vision Problems: The viewing distance and the angle of viewing that is advisable in case of computer viewing is very different from normal viewing of pages or other things. This is hardly known by most people. Hence, the eye movements and the eye focusing used for digital screen viewing require an additional source of labor from the visual system. Besides, even the presence of other minor vision problems can significantly affect the comfort as well as the performance of the eyes while using the computer or using other digital services. This is the reason why, if eye problems of this stature are kept uncorrected or under corrected, that will also add on to the computer related problems of the eyes as well as the vision. These under corrected vision problems will strain the eyes even further and hence computer vision syndrome is even further affected. Some people, who wear prescription glasses or even contact lenses, may have immense difficulty if the eyeglasses are not made according to the capacity of the eyes of the individual. This is the reason some people bend their eyes at a weird angle in order to look at the computer in better way.

All these are the signs of computer vision syndrome where the person is having some sort of difficulty in the viewing angle of the computer. The eyeglasses are often not made adequately or are designed for looking at the computer. Some people may even bend towards the computer screen in order to see the screen clearly. Some people even do not keep the distance between the computer screen and the eyes at an optimized level, because they have difficulty in viewing the screen. Such postures and angles may even lead to muscle spasms or pain in the neck, shoulder and in the entire back region. In almost all cases, the symptoms of the computer vision syndrome or which is also called the digital eye straining, majorly takes place as a result of the increased visual demands of the eye, which exceeds the visual abilities of the individual that has been naturally endowed to a person. The people who are at the greatest risk of developing computer vision syndrome, are those people who spend two or more continuous hours every day on a daily basis, in front of the computer or using a digital screening device.

Treatment & Prevention of Computer Vision Syndrome

There are many ways you can ensure that the symptoms of computer vision syndrome do not affect you. Factors which are basically in relation to the reduction or prevention of the symptoms of computer vision syndrome include:

Location of Computer Screen: Most people like it better and find it to be more comfortable, when the computer screens are at a position where the eyes are looking downwards. It has been optimized that the distance between the computer screen and the eyes has to be kept at 15 to 20 degrees below the level of the eye; measuring from the center of the screen and 20 to 28 inches from the eyes. Making sure the computer screen is at an appropriate angle will prevent the development of computer vision syndrome.

Reference Material: The reference materials used by a viewer during the work session should be kept above the keyboard and below the monitor. If this is not possible, then the reference materials can be kept in a document holder, so that the eyes can be moved from time to time when the material is being referred to. This greatly helps in prevention of computer vision syndrome.

Lighting: The computer should be positioned in a way that the glare from the screen can be avoided. The glare from the overhead lighting or even from adjacent windows should be avoided. This can be done by using blinds or drapes and the lights directly above the place of work should be replaced with low wattage bulbs. It is important to avoid glare and avoid harsh lights to prevent computer vision syndrome.

Anti-glare Screens: If the glare from the screen cannot be avoided, especially the one coming from the overhead lighting or windows; then you should consider using a screen glare filter. These filters fundamentally lower the amount of light that is reflected by the computer screen and thus prevent the occurrence of computer vision syndrome.

Seating Position: The chairs should be customized in a way that they are comfortable, well padded and should also confirm to the body shape. The height of the chair should be adjusted in such a way that the feet rest flat on the ground. If the chair you are using has arms, then it should be designed in such a way that they provide support to the arms while you are typing. Your wrists, however, should not rest on the keyboard while typing. Comfortable seating position goes a long way in preventing computer vision syndrome.

Rest Breaks: The 20-20-20 rule is a primary rule that should be subscribed to if you are working regularly on computer screens. In order to prevent eye strain or computer vision syndrome, rest your eyes by looking at something which is 20 feet away for 20 seconds, after working on the computer for 20 minutes. Alternatively, you should rest your eyes for 15 minutes after working continuously for 2 hours in front of the computer screen. This gap is required for your eyes to refocus and rest.

Blinking: Constantly viewing the computer screen may cause your eyes to become dry and in order to avoid or minimize the development of dry eyes, which is common when people use computer screens extensively, you should keep blinking your eyes from time to time and repeatedly. Blinking keeps the front surface of the eyes moist and prevents them from dryness.

If you are a person, who uses computers regularly and extensively, you should follow these tips in order to prevent computer vision syndrome.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 31, 2022

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