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Computer Vision Syndrome


Monitor the monitor: How to avoid Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS)

It's 3:30 P.M. on a Wednesday, you've been working at your computer all day, and you just can't look at the screen for another moment because your eyes are tired and burning. You may have a headache. Hopes of a productive afternoon seem lost.

If you work all day at a computer screen, you may be vulnerable to Computer Vision Syndrome - CVS.

The American Optometric Association (AOA) defines CVS as: "The complex of eye and vision problems related to near work, which are experienced during or related to computer use. CVS is characterized by visual symptoms that result from interaction with a computer display or its environment. In most cases, symptoms occur because the visual demands of the task exceed the visual abilities of the individual to comfortably perform the task."

Poor lighting, glare, an improper work station set-up, vision problems of which the person was not previously aware, or a combination of these factors can lead to CVS symptoms over time.

The problem is often more extensive than people think. "It is amazing to me how many patients come in with dry, tired, and sometimes red eyes after extended computer use and don't realize that's not normal - let alone that they have CVS," says CompBenefits' Peter Liane, O.D., a practicing optometrist.

AOA offers some tips that can help soothe computer users' tired eyes:
  • Take frequent breaks. OSHA recommends 15 minutes for every 45 at the computer.

  • Make a conscious effort to blink more. (Our blink rate decreases when we stare at the screen, causing our eyes to become drier.)

  • Use lubricating eye drops or tear replacement for dry or itchy eyes.

  • Make sure there is no glare on your screen. Relocate lamps, place blinds over windows, or invest in a glare reduction filter for your screen.

  • Clean your screen often; water and a clean cloth work fine.

  • Choose a light screen with dark letters because it is easiest on the eyes.

  • Locate your document holder as close to the screen as possible. Screen and holder should be at the same distance from your eyes.

  • Adjust your screen so that it is 4 to 9 inches below eye level and 20 to 26 inches from your eyes.
"Anyone who spends more than a few hours at a computer each day needs to consult an optometrist for a thorough eye examination whether they are having difficulties or not," notes AOA. "Computer users should describe their work center to the optometrist so he or she can make suggestions for correcting trouble spots that could be contributing to computer vision syndrome."


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