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As our dependence on computers continues to grow, an increasing number of people are seeking medical attention for eye strain and irritation, along with back, neck, shoulder, and wrist soreness.
These problems are more noticeable with computer tasks than other near work because letters on the screen are formed by tiny dots called pixels, rather than a solid image. This causes the eye to work a bit harder to keep the images in focus.
There is no scientific evidence that computer screens are harmful to the eyes. A common myth is that eye strain caused by reading and close work is damaging to the eyes. This is not true; however, those who work at computers often experience many frustrating symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms
Detection and Diagnosis
Your eye care practitioner will perform a complete eye examination that includes: near and distance visual acuity, refraction, tonometry, and an examination of the eye structures with a slit lamp microscope and ophthalmoscopy.
It is important to provide the eye care practitioner with detail about your work environment, work habits, and detail about the symptoms and their patterns. Bring your prescription glasses with you so the eye care practitioner can determine if they are appropriate for computer work.
The three main areas that should be addressed when treating CVS patients are: eye-related problems, work environment, and posture.
Posture and work habits
Computer Vision Syndrome and Children
The average American child now spends one to three hours per day on the computer doing homework, talking online with friends, and playing games.* Parents encourage children as young as two or three years old to use the computer. In fact:
Many pediatric computer vision eye doctors believe that heavy computer use among children puts them at risk for early myopia. They point to several recent studies as evidence that computers can have a negative impact on a child's vision:
A similar study in Singapore found that in three years the percentage of seven- to nine year olds with myopia had doubled, to 34%. Sitting for hours in front of a computer screen stresses a child's eyes because the computer forces the child's vision system to focus and strain a lot more than any other task. Twenty years ago, most children played outside, and their distant vision was more important.
Today, most children work at a computer either at home or school each day. Sitting in front of a computer and staring at a computer screen is causing vision problems that were not known years ago. Today it is a "near-point world," and parents need to be aware of the vision problems associated with computer work.
Computer use demands fine motor skills from young eyes that are not well developed. Only when the visual system matures is a child better able to handle the stress of a computer on that system.
According to the American Optometric Association, the impact of computer use on children's vision involves these factors:
Computer users should view the screen slightly downward, at a 15-degree angle. Furthermore, as a result of difficulty reaching the keyboard or placing their feet on the floor, a child may experience neck, shoulder and/or back pain.
Tips for Preventing Computer Vision Syndrome in Children
Many pediatric eye doctors believe that environmental stress of the "indoor world" rather than heredity is creating the myopia (nearsightedness) epidemic. In fact, children using computers before their visual systems are fully developed are at the very heart of the public health problem called computer vision syndrome. To prevent your child from suffering from CVS, follow these tips:
Will Glare Screens Prevent Computer Vision Syndrome?
Glare screen filters may help somewhat, but they will not solve your computer vision problems because they only affect glare from the computer screen — not the visual problems related to the constant refocusing of your eyes when working at a computer. Only when your eyes can focus clearly at the plane of proper distance on the computer screen can they experience relief from the fatiguing effects of CVS. An anti-reflective coating (ARC) is also highly recommended on all computer eyeglasses. An Anti Reflection Coating prevents glare and reflections on the front and the back of the lenses that would interfere with focusing on the screen.
Will Computer Spectacles Make the Screen Clearer?
Yes, because they will eliminate the constant refocusing effort that your eyes go through when viewing the screen. It has also been proven clinically that having the correct prescription in computer eyeglasses increases productivity and accuracy.
Do Computer Spectacles Look Like Safety Glasses?
No. Almost any style of frame can be used for computer eyewear. More important are the lenses that your eye doctor chooses for your computer eyeglasses. Ninety percent of the time, multifocal lenses will be your best choice, as they are designed specifically for working at a computer. They allow you to see clearly at your correct computer screen distance and can give you some distance vision beyond the computer. But whether the lenses are multifocal or single vision, you and your eye doctor must determine the best lenses for your work environment.
What About the Tints I've Heard of for Computer Lenses?
If you work in a brightly lit office, you may benefit from a light tint applied to your computer lenses. This can cut the amount of light that reaches your eyes and provide relief in some cases. But tints and filters don't address the underlying cause of computer eyestrain.
Does Every Computer User Need Computer Glasses?
More than 70% of computer users need computer eyeglasses. In fact, according to a study out of the University of California, Berkeley, 25%-30% of children would benefit from computer eyewear.
If I Don't Have Symptoms of CVS, Do I Still Need Computer Eyewear?
Maybe. According to a University of Alabama study (2004), computer users
who are not experiencing symptoms of computer vision syndrome may also
need computer eyewear. The study reports that it does not matter whether
subjects reported symptoms of CVS. The fact is that viewing a computer
screen is a different stimulus for the eyes than reading printed materials.
It is much more difficult for the eyes to focus on pixels than on printed
Will My Reading Glasses Work at the Computer?
Not necessarily. As with anything else you do in
life, it is important to have the right tool for the job. You would not
use a hammer when you need a screwdriver. The same goes for your vision:
Is It True That if a Person Doesn't See the Computer Screen Clearly, He May Not Be as Productive?
Yes, but in cases where the correction is only slightly off, the computer user may think he is seeing the screen clearly. Yet a recent study at the University of Alabama found that over time even the smallest miscorrections can cause big problems down the road, including loss of productivity and accuracy in the workplace. The eyes viewing a computer for many hours a day is analogous to the eye muscles being forced to do push-ups for hours and hours. Over time, these push-ups will significantly affect productivity, accuracy, and comfort.
Isn't Ergonomics the Solution to Computer Eyestrain?
Ergonomics is important — changing one's computer workstation can certainly help to minimize other physical symptoms. But ergonomics cannot fix a visual problem. The proper prescription computer spectacles at the proper computer distance (18" to 28") is most important. This can be done only with the right computer lens prescription.
Is It True That Wearing Computer Spectacles Will Make My Eyes Worse?
is not true. In fact, prescription eyeglasses can prevent further damage
to the eyes. Depending on your prescription, an eyecare professional
will probably fit you in either single vision or multifocal lenses. The
single vision lens is designed to optimize your vision at one distance
only: near for reading or work at the computer; or far for distance (watching
a movie or driving). Many eyecare professionals are now fitting computer
users in a multifocal lens that has a wide intermediate zone, which
optimizes computer work. This lens also allows the wearer to read printed
material while working at the computer and see a limited distance (10
to 13 feet). It is true that your eyes will get worse if you continue
to stress the eye muscles and do not wear prescription eyeglasses.
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