Safety Tip of the Week: Computer Vision Syndrome

Photo of woman rubbing eyes while working at computer

This week Wendy Couture, the district’s safety and risk reduction manager, shares information from the American Optometric Association about Computer Vision Syndrome.

Computer Vision Syndrome

Computer Vision Syndrome, also referred to as Digital Eye Strain, describes a group of eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer, tablet, e-reader and cell phone use. Many individuals experience eye discomfort and vision problems when viewing digital screens for extended periods. The level of discomfort appears to increase with the amount of digital screen use.

The average American worker spends seven hours a day on the computer either in the office or working from home. The e American Optometric Association is working to educate both employers and employees about how to avoid digital eye strain in the workplace. To help alleviate digital eye strain, follow the 20-20- 20 rule; take a 20-second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes.

The most common symptoms associated with Computer Vision Syndrome or Digital Eye Strain are:

  • Eyestrain
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry eyes
  • Neck and shoulder pain

These symptoms may be caused by:

  • Glare on a digital screen
  • Improper viewing distances
  • Poor seating posture
  • Uncorrected vision problems
  • A combination of these factors

Many of the visual symptoms experienced by users are only temporary and will decline after stopping computer work or use of the digital device. However, some individuals may experience continued reduced visual abilities, such as blurred distance vision, even after stopping work at a computer. If nothing is done to address the cause of the problem, the symptoms will continue to recur and perhaps worsen with future digital screen use.

Prevention or reduction of the vision problems associated with Computer Vision Syndrome or Digital Eye Strain involves taking steps to control lighting and glare on the device screen, establishing proper working distances and posture for screen viewing, and assuring that even minor vision problems are properly corrected.

What causes Computer Vision Syndrome or Digital Eye Strain?

Viewing a computer or digital screen often makes the eyes work harder. As a result, the unique characteristics and high visual demands of computer and digital screen device viewing make many individuals susceptible to the development of vision-related symptoms. Uncorrected vision problems can increase the severity of Computer Vision Syndrome or Digital Eye Strain Symptoms.

Viewing a computer or digital screen is different than reading a printed page. Often the letters on the computer or handheld device are not as precise or sharply defined, the level of contrast of the letters to the background is reduced, and the presence of glare and reflections on the screen may make viewing difficult.

Viewing distances and angles used for this type of work are also often different from those commonly used for other reading or writing tasks. As a result, the eye focusing and eye movement requirements for digital screen viewing can place additional demands on the visual system.

In addition, the presence of even minor vision problems can often significantly affect comfort and performance at a computer or while using other digital screen devices. Uncorrected or under-corrected vision problems can be major contributing factors to computer-related eyestrain.

In most cases, symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome or Digital Eye Strain occur because the visual demands of the task exceed the visual abilities of the individual to comfortably perform them. At greatest risk for developing Computer Vision Syndrome or Digital Eye Strain are those persons who spend two or more continuous hours at a computer or use a digital screen device every day.

Regular eye examinations and proper viewing habits can help to prevent or reduce the development of the symptoms associated with Computer Vision Syndrome.

To learn more about Computer Vision Syndrome, including proper body positioning when using a computer, visit the American Optometric Association website.