Ask The Doctor: Computer Vision Syndrome

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Author: Dr. Diana Balcarras Berg, B.S.c., O.D.

Source: Public Domain Picture

We live in a digital world and one of the most common concerns from patients is regarding visual issues caused by computers and electronics. Computers are integrated in our work and home-life, but overuse can lead to eye fatigue/strain, headaches, dry/red eyes, headaches, eye irritation/burning, tearing, blurry vision and neck/back pain. Let’s discuss a few simple preventative solutions for adults and kids that can be done to minimize these symptoms:

Adjust Your Screen

Your computer should be positioned at arm’s length away from your eyes and about 10-15cm below eye level for optimal viewing. If you need to look at other documents on your desk, position them nearby to minimize head movement. Make sure your child isn’t holding their electronic device too close to their face in order to allow for a sharper image on the screen. If they persist with holding their electronics too close, it could be an indication of other eye issues and an eye examination should be scheduled.

Proper computer position eyes
Here is a picture of me at my desk at Insight demonstrating proper computer positioning.

 

Take Breaks

Time can fly when we are focused on a task and sometimes hours pass without giving our eyes a chance to rest. The 20-20-20 rule is widely accepted as a good way to give your eyes a break. The “rule” suggests that every 20 minutes you look at something 20 ft away for 20 seconds. These short, but frequent, breaks are very helpful to allow your visual system a chance to recover. There are even apps that can be easily installed on your computer that remind you when it is time to take a break. Give it a try! Encourage your children to balance equal times on their electronics with outdoor & creative play.

Blink

Blinking is important because it helps to recirculate our tears and lubricate our eyes to prevent ocular irritation and dryness. The average person blinks around 15 times a minute, but when we use an electronic device we typically blink less than half as often. Make sure you consciously try to do some extra blinking and consider lubricating with some artificial tears to rehydrate the surface of your eyes.

Reduce Glare

Improper lighting and contrast can lead to additional unnecessary fatigue. Try positioning your computer to avoid glare on the screen from a window or overhead lights. If your office has a window, try having the light shine on you from the side rather than infront or behind the computer. Anti-glare screen protectors are also helpful to minimize glare. Ensure the brightness and contrast settings on your computer are set to avoid stark conditions. Avoid using electronics in a dark room – the contrast between the dark surroundings and bright screen increases fatigue. This is especially important for children playing video games.

Talk To Your Doctor

If you are suffering from computer vision syndrome, sometimes special computer glasses need to be prescribed to alleviate your symptoms. Anti-glare coatings can be used in addition to specially designed lenses to help with computer-related issues. During your examination, we will also assess your ocular health to ensure there are no other contributing factors that could be causing the symptoms you are experiencing.

Computers & electronics are a blessing, but they can be a curse to our eyes when they are overused. Try some of the suggestions above to keep your symptoms to a minimum.

About the author

Dr. Diana Balcarras Berg graduated in 2009 and has experience in private practice eye care and is also a clinical instructor at the University of Waterloo School of Optometry. Her special interests include family eye care and education. Feel free to call Insight Eye Care at 519-885-2020 to book your family’s eye exams with Dr. Balcarras Berg. Evening and after-school appointments are available.

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