Computer Vision Syndrome

What Is Computer Vision Syndrome?

Computer vision syndrome is the visual discomfort and eye problems that result from extended periods of looking at computer screens, cell phones, e-readers, tablets, and other digital-information devices. It is sometimes referred to as digital eye strain. Computer vision syndrome is a relatively new phenomenon that has arisen with our growing reliance on the technology of the Information Age. Many of us now spend hours every day in front of electronic screens, for purposes of work or entertainment. One consequence has been an increase in eye strain and related health issues, including dry eyes, headaches, and neck and shoulder pain.

Screen-related eye problems are widespread; studies have shown as much as 90 percent of people who regularly work with computers have at least some of the symptoms of computer vision syndrome. If you are experiencing eye strain or a more serious visual problem, contact your Baptist Health primary care physician or a vision-specialist at Baptist Health.

What Are the Symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome?

The following symptoms are typical of computer vision syndrome:

  • Eye strain, redness, itching, or fatigue
  • Dry eyes
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Headaches
  • Neck and shoulder discomfort

It is important to note that these symptoms are similar to those of other eye-health issues. Uncorrected vision problems can worsen the impact of digital eye strain.

What Causes Computer Vision Syndrome?

The root cause of computer vision syndrome is the constant need for the eyes to refocus as they move across the screen or back and forth between work notes and the computer. In this way, digital eye strain is similar to carpal or tarsal tunnel syndrome, which are both repetitive motion injuries.

Other factors can contribute to computer vision syndrome, including:

  • Improper placement of the computer screen in relation to one’s eyes or one’s chair
  • Bad lighting
  • Screen glare
  • Lack of blinking (a source of dry eye)
  • Poor seated posture

Not surprisingly, the individuals most at risk for eye strain are those who spend a substantial number of hours using computers and other digital devices. Also at risk are those with unaddressed vision problems, or eyewear that is inappropriate for close work with screens.

How Is Computer Vision Syndrome Diagnosed and Treated?

Computer vision syndrome is diagnosed by means of a comprehensive eye examination. Your ophthalmologist or optical specialist will document symptoms and medical history, and then administer a series of tests to determine your visual acuity, eye movement, focus, coordination, and need for corrective lenses (refraction exam).

Depending on the nature and severity of your condition, treatment options include:

  • Special corrective lenses: A person’s regular glasses or contact-lens prescription may be inadequate for addressing the problem of work-related eye strain. Specialized lens designs, tints, and coatings are available for these circumstances.
  • Vision therapy: Eyewear isn’t always sufficient for improving the computer experience. Vision therapy is a program of eye exercises that can increase eye-brain coordination, enhancing one’s ability to focus without fatigue.

Correcting any underlying vision issues should result in a marked reduction of digital eye strain, especially when combined with sensible preventive measures.

How Is Computer Vision Syndrome Prevented?

There are several things you can do to limit the possibility of developing computer vision syndrome:

  • If you got ‘em, wear ‘em: If you have glasses or contact lenses, be sure to wear them when using a computer. This includes specialized lenses for close-in screen work, if prescribed by your optical provider.
  • Adjust your office space: The work environment plays an important role in eye health. Your computer needs to be an appropriate distance and angle from where you sit, and your chair and other devices should provide adequate support for long periods in front of the screen.
  • Minimize exposure to blue light: Much of our standard-issue office equipment generates blue light, including digital devices and LED and fluorescent lighting. Blue light can result in red eyes, so limiting your exposure is one key to visual health. Blue-light glasses can also assist in screening out blue light.
  • Give yourself a break: It’s important on occasion to break up your screen routine. Get up, look around, and walk around, if only to clear your head and give your eyes an opportunity to relax.

Learn More About Eye Health and Computer Vision Syndrome at Baptist Health

If you have questions or concerns about your eye health, see a member of the Baptist Health medical network.

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