5 Things to Prevent Computer Vision Syndrome

Spend a lot of time in front of a computer?  You may suffer from CVS – short for Computer Vision Syndrome. The symptoms are probably familiar:  headaches, blurred vision, eyestrain, dry eyes, and neck and shoulder pain.

The more you stare at a screen, the more likely you’ll have CVS symptoms.  Especially if you already have vision problems: farsightedness, aging eyes with cataracts or “presbyopia” (the reason the 40+ crowd reaches for their reading glasses), astigmatism or trouble focusing. Poor lighting, screen glare, poor posture or sitting too close or too far from your monitor can also make symptoms worse.

The Problem with Computer Screens

Computer viewing is demanding on your eyes.  The distance and viewing angle between your eyes and monitor aren’t the same as reading a magazine or book.  Pixilated print is typically not as sharp as type in printed materials.  And screens can cause further strain due to reduced contrast, flashing, light reflections or glare.

If you wear eyeglasses or contact lenses, your prescription was likely calibrated to read a chart 20 feet away, not a computer screen 20 inches in front of you. Adjusting to the shorter distance can put strain on your eyes.  If you have multifocals, you may tilt your head forward or backward to see your computer screen clearly.

Avoiding Computer Vision Syndrome

The cure for CVS is simple:  get away from your computer.  But if you must spend hours staring at a screen, symptoms will continue to recur and may worsen over time.  If CVS has become “a pain in your neck,” here are some things to consider:

  1. Lighting – Make sure overhead lighting, desk lamps or light from windows is not causing glare on your screen. Use low wattage light bulbs in desk lamps.  (If you can’t stop the glare, get a screen glare filter to decrease the light reflected from your screen.)
  2. Your chair and posture – Select a chair with back support that allows you to sit up straight comfortably.  Your feet should rest flat on the floor. Chair arms should support your arms while you are typing. Never rest your wrists on the keyboard
  3. Position of your screen – Ideally, you should look downward slightly when viewing your computer.  Set the screen about 20 to 28 inches from your eyes.  The center of the screen should be about four or five inches below your eye level
  4. Location of source materials – Put materials you reference while typing between the keyboard and monitor. Place them the same distance from your eyes as your computer screen. In other words, try not to change your eye’s focus or move your head too much when referring from source documents to the screen. A document holder that is adjacent to your screen is the perfect solution
  5. Your eyes – Blink frequently or use over-the-counter eye drops to keep your eyes lubricated.  Follow the “20-20-20” rule to rest your eyes:  after every 20 minutes at the computer, look at something at least 20 feet away or close your eyes for at least 20 seconds.  Give your eyes longer breaks throughout the day by getting away from your computer for at least 15 minutes every two hours

It’s also important to see your eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam if you’re experiencing CVS symptoms.  Mention how much time you spend at your computer and what symptoms you’ve been having.  Your optometrist can test for CVS and advise you on treatment options. Your doctor may prescribe glasses designed specifically for computer use, suggest special tints or antireflective coatings, or talk with you about vision therapy.

Staring at pixels is inevitable in this day and age – you’re doing it right now.  But it doesn’t have to lead to CVS when you take the right steps.

Meet the Author

Aurora Vision Center offers comprehensive ophthalmology and optometry services in 13 convenient locations throughout Wisconsin.

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The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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