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Computer Eye Strain: 10 Steps For Relief

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.

These prob­lems can range from phys­i­cal fatigue, decreased pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and increased num­bers of work errors, to minor annoy­ances like eye twitch­ing and red eyes.

Here are 10 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. If you haven’t had an eye exam in over a year, sched­ule a vis­it with an eye doc­tor near you.
Accord­ing to the Nation­al Insti­tute of Occu­pa­tion­al Safe­ty and Health (NIOSH), com­put­er users should have an eye exam before they start work­ing on a com­put­er and once a year there­after.

Dur­ing your exam, be sure to tell your eye doc­tor how often you use a com­put­er at work and at home. Mea­sure how far your eyes are from your screen when you sit at your com­put­er, and bring this mea­sure­ment to your exam so your eye doc­tor can test your eyes at that spe­cif­ic work­ing dis­tance.

2. Use proper lighting

Eye strain often is caused by exces­sive­ly bright light either from out­door sun­light com­ing in through a win­dow or from harsh inte­ri­or light­ing. When you use a com­put­er, your ambi­ent light­ing should be about half as bright as that typ­i­cal­ly found in most offices.

Elim­i­nate exte­ri­or light by clos­ing drapes, shades or blinds. Reduce inte­ri­or light­ing by using few­er light bulbs or flu­o­res­cent tubes, or use low­er inten­si­ty bulbs and tubes. If pos­si­ble, posi­tion your com­put­er mon­i­tor or screen so win­dows are to the side, instead of in front or behind it.

Many com­put­er users find their eyes feel bet­ter if they can avoid work­ing under over­head flu­o­res­cent lights. If pos­si­ble, turn off the over­head flu­o­res­cent lights in your office and use floor lamps that pro­vide indi­rect incan­des­cent or halo­gen light­ing instead.

Some­times switch­ing to “full spec­trum” flu­o­res­cent light­ing that more close­ly approx­i­mates the light spec­trum emit­ted by sun­light can be more com­fort­ing for com­put­er work than reg­u­lar flu­o­res­cent tubes. But even full spec­trum light­ing can cause dis­com­fort if it’s too bright. Try reduc­ing the num­ber of flu­o­res­cent tubes installed above your com­put­er work­space if you are both­ered by over­head light­ing.

3. Minimize glare

Glare on walls and fin­ished sur­faces, as well as reflec­tions on your com­put­er screen also can cause com­put­er eye strain. Con­sid­er installing an anti-glare screen on your mon­i­tor and, if pos­si­ble, paint bright white walls a dark­er col­or with a mat­te fin­ish.

Again, cov­er the win­dows. When out­side light can­not be reduced, con­sid­er using a com­put­er hood.

If you wear glass­es, pur­chase lens­es with anti-reflec­tive (AR) coat­ing. AR coat­ing reduces glare by min­i­miz­ing the amount of light reflect­ing off the front and back sur­faces of your eye­glass lens­es.

4. Upgrade your display

If you have not already done so, replace your old tube-style mon­i­tor (called a cath­ode ray tube or CRT) with a flat-pan­el liq­uid crys­tal dis­play (LCD), like those on lap­top com­put­ers.

LCD screens are eas­i­er on the eyes and usu­al­ly have an anti-reflec­tive sur­face. Old-fash­ioned CRT screens can cause a notice­able “flick­er” of images, which is a major cause of com­put­er eye strain. Even if this flick­er is imper­cep­ti­ble, it still can con­tribute to eye strain and fatigue dur­ing com­put­er work.

Com­pli­ca­tions due to flick­er are even more like­ly if the refresh rate of the mon­i­tor is less than 75 hertz (Hz). If you must use a CRT at work, adjust the dis­play set­tings to the high­est pos­si­ble refresh rate.

When choos­ing a new flat pan­el dis­play, select a screen with the high­est res­o­lu­tion pos­si­ble. Res­o­lu­tion is relat­ed to the “dot pitch” of the dis­play. Gen­er­al­ly, dis­plays with a low­er dot pitch have sharp­er images. Choose a dis­play with a dot pitch of .28 mm or small­er.

Flick­er is not an issue with LCD screens, since the bright­ness of pix­els on the dis­play are con­trolled by a “back­light” that typ­i­cal­ly oper­ates at 200 Hz.

If you see a low­er refresh rate (e.g. 60 Hz) not­ed on an LCD screen, don’t wor­ry — this refers to how often a new image is received from the video card, not how often the pix­el bright­ness of the dis­play is updat­ed, and this func­tion typ­i­cal­ly is not asso­ci­at­ed with eye strain.

Final­ly, choose a rel­a­tive­ly large dis­play. For a desk­top com­put­er, select a dis­play that has a diag­o­nal screen size of at least 19 inch­es.

5. Adjust your computer display settings

Adjust­ing the dis­play set­tings of your com­put­er can help reduce eye strain and fatigue. Gen­er­al­ly, these adjust­ments are ben­e­fi­cial:

Bright­ness. Adjust the bright­ness of the dis­play so it’s approx­i­mate­ly the same as the bright­ness of your sur­round­ing work­sta­tion. As a test, look at the white back­ground of this Web page. If it looks like a light source, it’s too bright. If it seems dull and gray, it may be too dark.
Text size and con­trast. Adjust the text size and con­trast for com­fort, espe­cial­ly when read­ing or com­pos­ing long doc­u­ments. Usu­al­ly, black print on a white back­ground is the best com­bi­na­tion for com­fort.
Col­or tem­per­a­ture. This is a tech­ni­cal term used to describe the spec­trum of vis­i­ble light emit­ted by a col­or dis­play. Blue light is short-wave­length vis­i­ble light that is asso­ci­at­ed with more eye strain than longer wave­length hues, such as orange and red. Reduc­ing the col­or tem­per­a­ture of your dis­play low­ers the amount of blue light emit­ted by a col­or dis­play for bet­ter long-term view­ing com­fort.
For com­put­ers run­ning on a Microsoft Win­dows oper­at­ing sys­tem, dis­play set­tings can be adjust­ed in Con­trol Pan­el. For an Apple com­put­er, dis­play set­tings are found in Sys­tems Pref­er­ences (in the Appli­ca­tions fold­er in Find­er).

In some cas­es, the col­or tem­per­a­ture of a desk­top com­put­er mon­i­tor is adjust­ed on the dis­play itself.

6. Blink more often

Blink­ing is very impor­tant when work­ing at a com­put­er; blink­ing moist­ens your eyes to pre­vent dry­ness and irri­ta­tion.

When work­ing at a com­put­er, peo­ple blink less fre­quent­ly — about one-third as often as they nor­mal­ly do — and many blinks per­formed dur­ing com­put­er work are only par­tial lid clo­sures, accord­ing to stud­ies.

Tears coat­ing the eye evap­o­rate more rapid­ly dur­ing long non-blink­ing phas­es and this can cause dry eyes. Also, the air in many office envi­ron­ments is dry, which can increase how quick­ly your tears evap­o­rate, plac­ing you at greater risk for dry eye prob­lems.

If you expe­ri­ence dry eye symp­toms, ask your eye doc­tor about arti­fi­cial tears for use dur­ing the day.

By the way, don’t con­fuse lubri­cat­ing eye drops with the drops for­mu­lat­ed to “get the red out.” The lat­ter can indeed make your eyes look bet­ter — they con­tain ingre­di­ents that reduce the size of blood ves­sels on the sur­face of your eyes to “whiten” them. But they are not nec­es­sar­i­ly for­mu­lat­ed to reduce dry­ness and irri­ta­tion.

To reduce your risk of dry eyes dur­ing com­put­er use, try this exer­cise: Every 20 min­utes, blink 10 times by clos­ing your eyes as if falling asleep (very slow­ly). This will help rewet your eyes.

7. Exercise your eyes

Anoth­er cause of com­put­er eye strain is focus­ing fatigue. To reduce your risk of tir­ing your eyes by con­stant­ly focus­ing on your screen, look away from your com­put­er at least every 20 min­utes and gaze at a dis­tant object (at least 20 feet away) for at least 20 sec­onds. Some eye doc­tors call this the “20–20-20 rule.” Look­ing far away relax­es the focus­ing mus­cle inside the eye to reduce fatigue.

Anoth­er exer­cise is to look far away at an object for 10–15 sec­onds, then gaze at some­thing up close for 10–15 sec­onds. Then look back at the dis­tant object. Do this 10 times.

This exer­cise reduces the risk of your eyes’ focus­ing abil­i­ty to “lock up” (a con­di­tion called accom­moda­tive spasm) after pro­longed com­put­er work.

Both of these exer­cis­es will reduce your risk of com­put­er eye strain. Also, remem­ber to blink fre­quent­ly dur­ing the exer­cis­es to reduce your risk of com­put­er-relat­ed dry eye.

8. Take frequent breaks

To reduce your risk for com­put­er vision syn­drome and neck, back and shoul­der pain, take fre­quent breaks dur­ing your com­put­er work day.

Many work­ers take only two 15-minute breaks from their com­put­er through­out their work day. Accord­ing to a recent NIOSH study, dis­com­fort and eye strain were sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduced when com­put­er work­ers took four addi­tion­al five-minute “mini-breaks” through­out their work day.

And these sup­ple­men­tary breaks did not reduce the work­ers’ pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. Data entry speed was sig­nif­i­cant­ly faster as a result of the extra breaks, so work out­put was main­tained even though the work­ers had 20 extra min­utes of break time each day.

Dur­ing your com­put­er breaks, stand up, move about and stretch your arms, legs, back, neck and shoul­ders to reduce ten­sion and mus­cle fatigue.

Check your local book­store or con­sult your fit­ness club for sug­ges­tions on devel­op­ing a quick sequence of exer­cis­es you can per­form dur­ing your breaks and after work to reduce ten­sion in your arms, neck, shoul­ders and back.

9. Modify your workstation

If you need to look back and forth between a print­ed page and your com­put­er screen, this can cause eye strain. Place writ­ten pages on a copy stand adja­cent to the mon­i­tor.

Light the copy stand prop­er­ly. You may want to use a desk lamp, but make sure it doesn’t shine into your eyes or onto your com­put­er screen.

Improp­er pos­ture dur­ing com­put­er work also con­tributes to com­put­er vision syn­drome. Adjust your work­sta­tion and chair to the cor­rect height.

Pur­chase ergonom­ic fur­ni­ture to enable you to posi­tion your com­put­er screen 20 to 24 inch­es from your eyes. The cen­ter of your screen should be about 10 to 15 degrees below your eyes for com­fort­able posi­tion­ing of your head and neck.

10. 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.


June 20th, 2017|Comments Off on Computer Eye Strain: 10 Steps For Relief

About the Author:

Born in Connecticut and raised in Upstate New York , Dr. Stetson graduated Cum Laude from Colgate University in New York, and then earned an MD degree with honors at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. He distinguished himself again in residency at the Albany Medical Center, where he obtained the highest percentile in the Ophthalmology Knowledge Assessment Examinations. Dr. Stetson has performed more than 50,000 refractive surgeries and has been on staff at Diamond Vision since 2004, before becoming Medical Director in 2006.


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