What is computer vision syndrome? What happens when someone is afflicted with this syndrome? Is there something you can do about it? This article provides answers to these questions.
Are you a regular computer user? Since you are reading this article, chances are, you are one of those who spend most of their waking lives in front of the computer. It seems everyone could not dispense of their laptops, desktop, tablets, or cell phones. They need to keep up with the latest news, do some work, communicate with friends, search for literature, and many other things possible with that shiny liquid crystal display (LCD) or Light Emitting Diode (LED) screen.
But do you know that by staring at your gadgets for a long time can make you sick? You are at risk of getting a sickness that gradually becomes common among computer users nowadays. Doctors call this modern malady computer vision syndrome or CVS. According to Wimalasundera (2006), millions of new cases occur each year.
I learned about this health condition while searching an explanation for the pain I experience at the back of my ear whenever I spend hours writing articles, searching the literature for my lessons, and answering the endless flow of emails to answer official queries, friends, and monitor the progress of research projects. Probably, I am spending more than eight hours a day to do all these things. Well, the pain stopped when I reduced the time I devoted in front of my laptop.
What is CVS and what are its symptoms? I gathered the following information after a search through online literature. This time, I used Google Scholar to pick up information from refereed journals recognized for their reliability.
Computer Vision Syndrome Defined
Blehm et al. (2005) and Yan et al. (2008) describe computer vision syndrome as a health condition characterized by a collection of symptoms including eyestrain, tired eyes, irritation, redness, blurred vision, double vision, and neck and back pain. Recently, Khalaj et al. (2015) added dizziness as a symptom. All of these symptoms relate to the eyes.
The primary symptoms of CVS appears to be dry eye, as computer users seldom blink as they stare onto computer screens. But other authors say the primary symptoms include eyestrain and monitor glare (Khalaj et al., 2015). There appears to be no consensus for this understudied area among the authors. Much more research needs to be done to clarify the issue.
Despite the dearth of literature on this subject, scientists believe that the symptoms of CVS arise because of poor lighting. Inadequate ambient light makes people squint in making out the characters on their computer screen while highly reflective screens diffuse too much light that tire the eyes. Also, eyes focused too close to the screen, faulty eyeglasses, bad seating posture, too many tasks to do using computers, reduced variation in eye movement, or a combination of these factors, are contributory factors.
How can you avoid CVS?
Based on the likely causes, the following practices are recommended to frequent computer users to prevent CVS:
1. Blink more. Consciously blink your eyes periodically while using the computer. Blinking is a natural way to protect your eyes from infection, thus prevent dry eyes. If you do have dry eyes, omega-3 fatty acids can help alleviate symptoms. Rashid et al. (2008) conclude that topical alpha-linolenic acid treatment led to a significant decrease in dry eye signs.
2. Sit on an ergonomic chair. It pays to invest a little in a computer chair that support the spine of the back. Add a bamboo pad or similar material to prevent your buttocks from heating up and cause other health problems if you spend too much time seating on a chair.
3. Replace your old pair of glasses. Change your eyeglasses if they have been with you for more than two years. Optometrists recommend changing glasses once a year. Faulty eyeglasses may be the source of your frequent headaches.
4. Rest. Nobody undermines the importance of rest in any activity. All work and no play make Johnny a dull boy. If you likewise use the computer at play, then you need to change the game you play into something that can wean you away from your computer. How about inviting your friends and go out to take some interesting pictures in a famous tourism site?
5. Have enough light. Adjust the lighting conditions in your work area so you can read fonts better on your computer screen.
6. Move your eyes. Gaze away from the computer screen once in a while to give your eyes time to rest and refocus. Optometrist Roger Phelps recommends the 20-20-20 rule. The number represents 20 minutes of computer use and looking at something about 20 feet away for 20 seconds. The older you are, the shorter should be the time devoted to computer use.
The point of the whole matter is that you avoid spending too much time in front of the computer or your electronic gadgets. Spend time mingling with friends, physically, to establish bonds no computer can ever replace. You gain not only your health but food for your emotions.
Blehm, C., Vishnu, S., Khattak, A., Mitra, S., & Yee, R. W. (2005). Computer vision syndrome: a review. Survey of Ophthalmology, 50(3), 253-262.
Khalaj, M., Ebrahimi, M., Shojai, P., Bagherzadeh, R., Sadeghi, T., & Ghalenoei, M. (2015). Computer Vision Syndrome in Eleven to Eighteen-Year-Old Students in Qazvin. Biotechnology and Health Sciences, 2(3).
Rashid, S., Jin, Y., Ecoiffier, T., Barabino, S., Schaumberg, D. A., & Dana, M. R. (2008). Topical omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for treatment of dry eye. Archives of Ophthalmology, 126(2), 219-225.
Wimalasundera, S. (2006). Computer vision syndrome. Galle Medical Journal, 11(1), 25-9.
Yan, Z., Hu, L., Chen, H., & Lu, F. (2008). Computer Vision Syndrome: A widely spreading but largely unknown epidemic among computer users. Computers in Human Behavior, 24(5), 2026-2042.