Healthy Beginnings

Computer Vision Syndrome

Probably anyone who has spent any significant amount of time in front of a computer monitor has experienced some degree of eye fatigue and/or strain. Common symptoms of a condition known as Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) include headaches, slow re-focusing, blurred vision, double vision, neck and/or backache and dry, irritated eyes.

Common symptoms of CVS

HEADACHES

Headaches can be one of the most perplexing and difficult symptoms to diagnose and pinpoint the cause of. However, headaches that are related to vision or eye strain often share one or more of the following characteristics:

• Do not appear upon awakening

• Occur in a much different pattern, or not at all, on weekends

• Occur most often toward the middle or end of the day

• Occur on one side of the head more than the other

SOLUTION: If the headaches appear to be eye-related, a complete eye examination is a priority. If they do not seem to be related to vision, consider getting a general physical from your family physician or internist.

DRY AND IRRITATED EYES

Numerous studies have shown that a person working on a computer monitor tends to blink much less often than normal. This can lead to dry, irritated eyes and even blurry vision, since the front part of the eye, called the cornea, must remain moist to give sharp visual focus.

SOLUTION: Try to blink more often. Although this may sound obvious, it takes a concerted effort when you are actually on the computer. Also, use a good quality artificial tear drop to assist with lubricating the eyes, such as Thera-Tears, or Viva-A drops.

BLURRED VISION AND SLOW REFOCUSING

Blurred vision can be the result of a number of factors, including a dirty monitor screen, improper lighting, a poor viewing angle or the need for prescription eye wear. Often when you force your eyes to focus up close for long periods of time the involuntary muscle within the eye which controls focusing can become “adapted” to that range of vision. This means that instead of instantaneously relaxing when you look at distance (which is what should happen) this muscle is still flexed to some degree for up close vision.

SOLUTION: Make sure that your monitor is a good quality unit (we recommend flat panels of at least 15 -17” viewable area) and that your viewing angle is optimal. Check to be sure that you are not getting too much ambient glare from overhead lighting on your screen. Again, a thorough vision exam is a priority to rule out any inherent focusing problems like nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia) and/or astigmatism. If glasses are indicated, anti-reflective treatment is a recommended option, as this helps to greatly reduce or eliminate glare from lighting. If the problem appears to be one of slow refocusing, take breaks often and look up from your work at distant objects. Often a low-powered pair of prescription glasses to help magnify can be a tremendous help, as this helps to relieve the need for the involuntary muscle within the eye to continually flex to achieve clear focus at near.

NECK OR BACKACHE

It is very common to try to contort our bodies to enable our visual system to achieve its optimal positioning. This is because our visual system is so dominant that we will often assume very awkward positioning to compensate for any real or perceived visual deficiency or problem we may have.

SOLUTION: Again, get a thorough eye exam to alleviate or rule out any inherent visual defect. Check your posture and be sure that your monitor, keyboard, mouse and lighting are all working in a coordinated manner to give you optimal visual comfort at a natural body posture.

DOUBLE VISION

When we refer to the coordinated use of the two eyes together, we often call this binocular vision. When the coordination system breaks down, as it can when staring at a computer monitor for extended periods of time, you may experience brief or intermittent double vision. This can often go hand-in-hand with a slow refocusing problem.

SOLUTION: Double vision can be a sign of a severe problem, so always consult your eye care professional to determine the cause.

Submitted by: Patrick B. “Travis” Adlington, O.D.,F.A.A.O. Dr. Adlington is located at 500 W. Plumb lane, Reno, NV 89509 (775) 284-3937.