Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), also known as Computer Eye Strain, is an unintended consequence of the computer revolution. Computers, smartphones, tablets, and other devices have made connecting to others simpler and created entire industries. This progress, however, has led to an epidemic of eyestrain. The result, according to WebMD, is that 50 to 90 percent of people that regularly use computers and other devices for several hours each day suffer from Computer Vision Syndrome.

What Causes Computer Vision Syndrome
Many factors play into Computer Vision Syndrome, including genetics, age, amount of computer usage, and habits.

  • Some people are simply born with better vision and stronger eyes. These people might be able to use screens heavily with little effect, though this ability is likely to deteriorate with age.
  • Though people under 40 are highly affected by CVS, the over 40 crowd has particular trouble with CVS.
  • Age-related vision changes reduce the tolerance for long stints that require the eye to constantly focus and refocus while withstanding glare.

How Computer Vision Syndrome Affects Vision in Long Run
Presbyopia, or the loss of clear close vision, occurs naturally as people age. The shape of the crystalline lens in the eye changes, resulting in older people often needing to hold reading material away from them in order to see the letters clearly.

  • This condition cannot be prevented, and it can greatly complicate CVS and other vision conditions, such as nearsightedness and farsightedness. Thankfully, there are strategies that help presbyopia.
  • Glasses to correct near vision, known as “cheaters”, are often used during computer work. Even if the screen is close enough to see, the glasses may help with eye strain.
  • An optometrist can recommend glasses, contact lenses, and other methods to reduce the effects of Presbyopia.

The condition generally shows up around the age of 40 and continues throughout life.

Symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome
Young or old, the symptoms of CVS are serious and should never be taken lightly. Similar to Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, they occur due to repetitive movement. In the case of CVS, it is the movement of the eye rather than of the hand. Like Carpel Tunnel, if symptoms are ignored, they worsen over time. Symptoms to look out for include:

  • Eyestrain
  • Eye fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry eyes
  • Pain in the neck and shoulders

Though symptoms like headaches and neck and shoulder pain may initially seem to arise from another cause, CVS is often the culprit when someone spends long periods of time on the computer.

Struggling to see the screen can add up over time and increase to pain and tightness. Headaches result from constant exposure to glare and repetitive eye movement.

Take Adequate Preventive Measures
Computer users can take several steps to prevent or mitigate the symptoms of CVS.

One of the most important measures is to have a regular eye checkup. Uncorrected vision problems or wearing out-of-date prescriptions exacerbate CVS symptoms. An optometrist also checks patient’s eyes for diseases and determines if symptoms like blurred vision and dry eyes are the result of CVS. An optometrist creates a treatment plan for CVS.

There are also several general strategies to help prevent CVS.  These include:

  • Keep the screen at least 20 inches from the eyes. Angle it so the eyes look slightly downward.
  • Always have proper lighting.
  • Adjust the size of the screen text and the brightness to the most comfortable.
  • Blink often.
  • Use eye drops. 

Many people also use the 20-20-20 rule. The 20-20-20 rule has computer users look away from the screen every twenty minutes for 20 seconds while focusing the eyes on a spot 20 feet away. This breaks up the repetition and allows the eyes to refocus.

For more information, visit Careworks.

Author:  Sarah Vidumsky, PA-C

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