QUESTION: Staring at a computer screen for hours on end is an unavoidable part of my workday. But between work and using my phone, not to mention watching movies at home in the evening, I’m worried all of this screen-staring is putting a real strain on my eyes. Are eye problems becoming more common? Is there anything I can do to prevent this (aside from quitting my job)? Do you recommend using reading glasses while I’m working at my computer?
Dr. RASKIN: With more and more of our society staring at computer screens all day long, not only are we losing valuable interpersonal skills, but yes we are damaging our eyes as well. There is even a medical term for eye problems caused by computer use—computer vision syndrome or CVS.
CVS (no relation to the pharmacy) is a syndrome that encompasses a variety of eyestrain and pain, and is becoming more common as more people like you are on computers all day for work. Even kids are getting more eye problems with the use of computers at school as well as mobile devices and video games. You are definitely not alone.
Research has shown that between 50 to 90 percent of people who work at a computer develop some type of eye problem. Symptoms can vary, but include blurred vision, headaches, dry or red, irritated eyes, double vision and neck or back pain.
The symptoms can get worse the more hours you work at the computer. This is because your eyes have to continuously focus, move back and forth, and align with the words on the screen. Often you look down and back at the screen repetitively which taxes the eye muscles just like overusing the wrist and hand can cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
The computer screen itself can make the visual effort more troublesome because of screen contrast and glare. For those users who already have eye problems or who don’t wear the right prescription lenses, this can compound the problem.
As if that is not enough, vision can become more challenging as we age. Because the lens of the eye becomes less flexible after the age of 40, it is more difficult to look back and forth from the screen to other desk work or objects further away.
With all of that said, you do not have to pick between your vision and your job. First, it is important to visit your eye doctor regularly to discuss any vision concerns. If you already wear prescription lenses, the doctor may determine if you may need special computer lenses that may help increase contrast perception or filter out glare to reduce strain.
You can also cut down on glare by changing the lighting, perhaps by dimming overhead lights or moving the monitor away from a window. Also, it helps to place the monitor in the correct position to reduce eye and neck strain.
The optimal monitor position has been shown to be slightly below eye level and about 24 inches away from your face.
Finally, give your eyes a break every 20 minutes or so and look elsewhere or rest your eyes. Dry eyes can feel better with over-the-counter lubricating drops.
The good news is that CVS does not necessarily lead to permanent eye damage. However, you can clearly see that we must make some changes in how we work and play to clearly see.
Palisadian Damon Raskin, M.D., is a board-certified internist who offers preventative medicine, concierge services and addiction medicine to patients in and around the Palisades. Contact: (310) 459-4333. To submit your medical questions, like or follow us on Facebook.com/PalisadianPost or Twitter.com/PalisadianPost and send a message.
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