COMPUTER EYE-STRAIN

April 16, 2016


This post is to some extent a public service announcement so I hope you will take the message as information and apply the discussion as needed.

We all spend time on our digital devices; cell phones, I-pads, lap top computers, gaming devices, etc.  I am certainly no different than anyone although probably much older than most reading this post.  I have a Motorola smart phone that I use all day.  That device is synced with my computer so I can receive and send messages without being behind the desk.  Great convenience while traveling and visiting clients.  According to eMarkater, we are spending more and more time on our digital equipment.  Let’s take a look.

Digital Time Spent

According to Neilson, we can see the following:

Neilson Pie Chart

There are 2014 figures but do correlate with the chart above as far as usage. Eleven hours per day is a HUGE amount of time spent “viewing”.

More people are also watching TV and films online. A quarter of internet users regularly catch up on programmers online, compared to one in ten in 2007. This rises to thirty-nine percent of 16-24 year olds, up from twenty-one percent in 2007. However, TV is still an important method of consumption for many. When asked which device they would miss the most, almost four in ten adults said they would feel most lost without a television.

“New technologies are opening up a myriad of other possibilities for young people. It’s not just watching content – they’re messaging friends, texting at the same time. Inevitably, as the younger generation gets older and they set up their own home, TV viewing consumption will be affected,” said Toby Syfret, a TV analyst at media research firm Enders Analysis.

Several months ago I noticed a problem when going from my smart phone to my desktop PC and trying to focus when not on digital media.  The time it took to regain focus was minutes and not seconds.  This really bothered me so I contacted my optometrist to see what, if any, damage I might be doing and how that damage could be mitigated.  She indicated the digital age has created an entirely new and different problem called Computer Vision Syndrome or CVS.  Computer vision syndrome is similar to carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive stress injuries at work. It occurs when you’re carrying out the same motion over and over again. Just like those other repetitive stress injuries, computer vision syndrome can get worse the longer you continue the activity.

Working at a computer requires that the eyes continuously focus, move back and forth, and align with what you are seeing. You may have to look down at papers and then back up to type, and the eyes have to accommodate to the changing images on the screen in order to create a clear picture for the brain to interpret.

All of these functions require a great deal of effort from eye muscles. Working on a computer is more challenging to your eyes than reading a book or piece of paper, because a computer screen also adds the elements of screen contrast, flicker, and glare. Computer eye problems are more likely to occur if you already have an eye problem — such as nearsightedness or astigmatism — or if you need glasses but don’t wear them or wear the wrong prescription for computer use.

Working at a computer gets even more difficult as you get older. That’s because the lens of your eye becomes less flexible. The ability to focus on near and far objects starts to diminish after about age 40 — a condition called presbyopia.  If you have CVS, you may experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Blurred vision.  (This is definitely my issue.)
  • Double vision. (And this.)
  • Dry, red eyes. (It has been recommended to me that the use of eye drops greatly improves these issues.  I use them.)
  • Eye irritation
  • Headaches. (After an hour on my cell phone I definitely have a slight headache.  When going longer on my cell, that headache strengthens.)
  • Neck or back pain.

OK, we are know the issues now what can we do about them?  VisionSource.com recommends the following:

  1. Take a break – Use the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away. (I have tried this and it works.  Don’t really know why it is so effective the results are excellent.)
  2. Blink frequently – Do not forget to blink periodically. Staring at computer screens can dry our eyes and cause redness and irritation.
  3. Consider computer glasses – Computer glasses are prescription eyewear that is specifically designed for computer work. They allow you to focus your eyes on the distance of a computer screen, which is generally farther away than reading material. Computer glasses optimize your eyesight when you’re looking at digital screens and help to reduce glare.
  4. Keep your monitor bright – This reduces the flicker rate of the computer and reduces fatigue. Flickering can lead to eyestrain and headaches. Also, a bright monitor causes your pupil to constrict, which results in a greater range of focus. This reduces the need for your eye to accommodate and enables you to work longer and with more comfort.
  5. Use proper lighting – Use incandescent lighting and avoid high-intensity lamps, which cast shadows and create glare. Place a dim light on either side of your workstation to create equal brightness without dark, shadowed areas.
  6. Check your monitor’s position – The position of your computer monitor can add to your eyestrain. It is important that it be positioned at the proper distance away from your eyes. Optimally, your computer screen should be 15 to 20 degrees below eye level (about 4 or 5 inches) as measured from the center of the screen and 20 to 28 inches from the eyes.
  7. Adjust your screen resolution – Make sure your monitor has a high-resolution display. A higher resolution produces sharper type and crisper images, reducing eye strain.
  8. Minimize glare – Clean your monitor regularly to remove dust and consider installing an anti-glare screen. It also helps to keep shades drawn to prevent glare from outside sources.
  9. Try massage or eye cupping – Massaging the area around the eyes will help relax the muscles and can be very comforting. Rub your hands together to create friction and warmth, then gently cup your palms over your closed eyes and rest them.
  10. Take your vitamins – Getting the proper amount of vitamins and minerals is important for overall eye health. Opt for vitamins that contain antioxidants and ingredients that help improve the health of the eye and reduce eyestrain, such as vitamins A, C and E with a B complex and Zinc.
  11. Schedule a comprehensive eye exam – Almost 71% of people reporting symptoms of CVS wear eyeglasses or contact lenses, so make sure your prescription is correct! The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that all computer users have an eye exam yearly. Lastly, be sure to tell your eye doctor about your workstation setup and the number of hours each day you spend on electronic devices.  At my age, I worry about macular degeneration, glaucoma, retinal disorders, etc. but at any age all adults need an eye exam every year or at least every eighteen months.

I certainly hope this helps and as always, I welcome your comments.

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