For your eyes only Part One

Has this ever happened to you?

You’re headed home after work and you have trouble focusing on objects in the distance, your eyes feel tired and strained and you have a headache.

After just a couple of hours of working on a computer display your eyes start to hurt, you’re

starting to feel fatigue and your neck begins to ache.

While these symptoms could be related to the physical health of your eyes, and you should have them checked by your eye doctor, you may be suffering from COMPUTER VISION SYNDROME.

Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is defined by the American Optometric Association as “that complex of eye and vision problems related to near work which are experienced during or related to computer use”.

In simple terms, Computer Vision Syndrome is a set of concerns which may be experienced by computer users caused by working in a short or near vision distance environment and a less than ergonomically correct computer workstation environment, according to the AOA and Cornell University studies.

CVS may include:

  • Eyestrain
  • Blurred near or distance vision
  • Headaches related to computer use
  • Dry or irritated eyes
  • Neck and/or backaches
  • Light sensitivity
  • Tired eyes

Your eyes were designed primarily for use at distance, so spending long hours starting at a computer display can be very demanding on your eyes. When you work on a computer, your eyes blink at less than half their normal rate, which can cause dry, irritated eyes. In addition, computer displays are made up of pixels, or tiny dots, on which the eyes cannot maintain their focus. You are constantly refocusing to keep the images sharp, resulting in undue stress to your eye muscles.

The long-term effects of CVS, according to the AOA, may include poor performance on the job, lost time and aggravation of existing vision conditions. In addition, experts in CVS state that CVS may cause an inability to rapidly focus on distance objects.

People at greatest risk for CVS are computer users who spend two or more hours a day on their computers. These days that could include up to 75 per cent of the office workforce and it doesn’t factor in the time people spend on their home computers.

A 2002 study from the Graduate School of Medicine, Chiba University, Japan of more than 25,000 office workers over a three-year time period shows that eyestrain was the most prevalent physical system over all three years. Headaches and stiff shoulders were second and third.

The working environment can be one of the biggest contributors to CVS. These environmental conditions may include excessive reflections off your computer displays, poor lighting, improper placement of equipment and supplies, and older monitors. Unfortunately, many people change to awkward body positions to accommodate their eyes so that they can best see and interact with the computer. Instead they should be implementing changes to their working environment.

Is it important to make these changes, outside of the reasons for wanting to provide greater viewing comfort? Yes, in 1994 a study by the University of Berkley, Dr. James Sheedy, determined that task performance may decrease 4-19 per cent when there are symptoms of vision and eye discomfort for a computer user.

There are solutions to help provide more comfort for those with from Computer Vision Syndrome. While each situation is unique, these suggestions can help make a difference when it comes to reducing eye strain, eye fatigue and the other concers that related to computer usage.

  1. Get an annual eye examination. Make sure to tell your eye doctor how many hours you work on a computer, the working distance and any issues you may feel while working on a computer display.
  2. Take vision breaks and blink frequently. Take frequent breaks away from your computer to allow your eyes to fully relax and refresh themselves and make an effort to blink more frequently throughout the day. Make sure you are not doing other near vision work during these breaks — that’s no break for your eyes.
  3. Decrease monitor glare. If you can see your reflection in the monitor, you probably have a glare problem. Even today’s monitors with anti-glare treatments may not be enough to reduce reflections below the threshold of human sensitivity.
  • add an anti-glare computer filter to your monitor that has been tested against International Standards for displays with reflections (ISO 9241-7) and that has the AOA Seal of Acceptance.
  • Relocate your computer monitor to be perpendicular to windows or bright lights.
  • Use drapes, shades or blinds
  • Install lower-watt overhead light bulbs or polarizing light filters to reducing room lighting levels.
  1. Adjust your monitor distance. Position your monitor at least 20 inches away from your eyes. Even better is to use the “1/3 Rule”. With a typical work file on your screen, back up until the image starts to blur. Slowly move back in until the image just comes into focus. Have someone else measure the distance from your eyes to the monitor. Divide that distance by three. The result will be the distance you should be working on you
  2. Adjust your monitor height. Arrange the monitor so that the top of the monitor is at eye level. Placing a monitor too high can expose more of the eye, causing it to dry out. A monitor placed too high OR too low could also lead to neckaches.

Clean the screen. Staring through dust, dirt and fingerprints on your computer screen makes the image more difficult to see.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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