Why Computer Vision Syndrome is an Epidemic (and How to Beat It)

by Larry Alton
Published 05/01/2018
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ScreenWhy Computer Vision Syndrome is an Epidemic (and How to Beat It)

If you work in IT or any other role that requires constant attention to a computer, you might be falling victim to computer vision syndrome without realizing it. Americans currently spend an average of 10 hours a day staring at screens, including computers, tablets, TVs, and smartphones, and that number is steadily increasing.

Those screens might be making us more productive and more entertained than ever, but it’s vital to recognize the negative consequences all that exposure could also be having on our optical health.

What Is Computer Vision Syndrome?

Also referred to as digital eye strain, computer vision syndrome is an array of various eye and vision problems that can occur after repeated, long-term exposure to digital screens. When your eyes are looking at something up close, they tend to work harder than usual, which results in greater strain.

If the strain persists, your eyes will suffer damage, much in the way that overuse of muscles can result in soreness or injury. Symptoms can include:

  • Eye soreness
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry eyes
  • Neck and shoulder pain

If you have pre-existing health problems that relate to your eyes and vision, such as farsightedness or astigmatism, you might suffer even further complications from prolonged exposure to digital screens, and not just exacerbation of the above symptoms.

How to Prevent It

Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to prevent computer vision syndrome from happening to you, or at least from getting worse:

  • Adjust the lighting in your workspace. You can mitigate the effects of computer vision syndrome by adjusting the lighting in your workspace. Fluorescent lighting or dim lighting can make your eyes work even harder, because your screen becomes an even more alluring focal point. Instead, use motorized blinds and shades to control the natural lighting in your workspace, and give you a more illuminated environment where your eyes can wander and relax.
  • Adjust your monitor lighting. You can also take the trouble to adjust the brightness of your monitor, or use an app that filters out blue light in favor of red, which scales down the intensity of the screens you’re looking at. These small steps won’t interfere with your ability to work, but they might be all that’s necessary to diminish the eyestrain you undergo on a regular basis.
  • Take regular breaks for your eyes. If you know you’re going to be staring at a screen for an extended period of time, discipline yourself to take regular breaks that follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes you spend viewing a screen, stop to look at an object elsewhere that’s at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This exercise will help your eye muscles relax and focus on a natural object, and reduce the total strain to give your eyes a chance to reset. It’s also a good excuse to go outside or move around, which will make your sedentary lifestyle a little more active.
  • Purchase computer glasses. You can also purchase computer glasses, which are like reading glasses specifically for computer screens. They aren’t necessary if you don’t have pre-existing vision problems, but if you wear glasses or contacts normally, they can help your eyes adjust to the visual demands of a screen more naturally.
  • Reduce your total screen time. Finally, you can take steps in your life to reduce the total amount of time you spend looking at screens. If your job requires you to look at a computer for eight hours a day, don’t start playing computer games the minute you get home. Spend more time outdoors, and focus on more distant, real-world subjects.

For an added step, take the time to raise awareness of computer vision syndrome. If and when you make purchases or lifestyle changes to reduce the strain on your eyes, tell your coworkers and bosses about it.

At the very least, you’ll be helping to make your workplace more informed, and at best, you could spare the rest of your office the dangers of computer vision syndrome. The screens at our disposal have transformed our lives, but we need to take control of them if we want to avoid the downsides.