With so many of us using computers at work, computer eye strain has become a major job-related complaint. Studies show that eye strain and other bothersome visual symptoms occur in 50 to 90 percent of computer workers.
If you work at a computer, there’s a good chance you experience computer eye strain. Eye strain and associated symptoms from prolonged computer work such as blurred vision, headaches and muscle strain are called computer vision syndrome, or CVS.
Here are 6 easy steps you can take to reduce your risk of computer eye strain and other common symptoms of computer vision syndrome (CVS):
1. Get a comprehensive eye exam.
Having a routine comprehensive eye exam is the most important thing you can do to prevent or treat computer vision problems. It is recommended that computer users have an eye exam every year. During your exam, be sure to tell your eye doctor how often you use a computer at work and at home. The doctor may recommend a specific prescription for the computer distance and all glasses wearers can benefit from an anti-reflective coating, which decreases glare and eye strain.
2. Use proper lighting.
Try to avoid excessive light from outdoor sunlight with the use of drapes or shades. Harsh interior lighting can also be reduced by using fewer bulbs or fluorescent tubes. If overhead lights are particularly bothersome, consider turning them off and using floor lamps that provide indirect incandescent lighting instead. Another option is to replace fluorescent tubes with bulbs designed to simulate natural sunlight, such as “full spectrum” fluorescent bulbs. Finally, position your computer screen so windows are to your sides rather than directly in front or behind you.
3. Minimize glare.
Anti-reflective coatings on prescription eyewear can dramatically decrease glare and eye strain. To put this in practice, try installing an anti-glare screen on your monitor, wearing dark-colored clothing and painting walls with muted colors and matte finishes. If you are considering a new computer screen, I recommend one that has a diagonal measurement of at least 19 inches. Consider switching from a cathode rate tube (CRT) monitor to a flat-panel liquid crystal display (LCD), which will reduce the image flicker, further decreasing eye strain and fatigue. Also, the higher the resolution (or lower the dot pitch) the better.
4. Take a break.
A good rule of practice is 20-20-20, which means for every 20 minutes on the computer take a 20 second break and look at a target approximately 20 feet in the distance. Our eyes tend to lock into focus at a close working distance, so the break will force the focusing system to relax. Additionally, when we are concentrating on near tasks our blink rate goes down, so consciously attempt to increase your blink rate during the break, which will help reduce the risk of dry eye.
5. Adjust your computer display settings.
It is much easier to read when the text is at a comfortable size on your screen. Optimal font size will vary from person to person, so explore different option to find one that keeps you from having to squint to see it. It is also much easier to read when there is increased contrast – for example, a white background with black print. The brightness of the display should be approximately the same as the brightness of your surrounding work station; if your screen is a light source it is too bright, and if it seems dull and gray it may be too dark. To adjust Microsoft Windows operating systems, use the control panel, and in some cases adjustments can be made on the actual display. For an Apple computer, you will find the settings in Systems Preferences in the Applications folder in finder.
6. Consider computer eyewear.
For the greatest comfort at your computer, you might benefit from having your eye care professional modify your eyeglasses prescription to create customized computer glasses. This is especially true if you normally wear contact lenses, which may become dry and uncomfortable during sustained computer work. Computer glasses also are a good choice if you wear bifocals or progressive lenses, because these lenses generally are not optimal for the distance to your computer screen.
Any of these simple adjustments can help keep eye strain to a minimum. If you have any questions feel free contact our office at (910) 219-3937. Dr. Taylor would be happy to talk with you about your specific needs.