Computer Vision Syndrome

Computer eyestrain, or computer vision syndrome (CVS) is a common occurrence in the work environment, especially when one sits in front of the computer for long stretches of time. The symptoms vary, but often include eye strain, blurred vision (distance and near), headaches, dry eyes, slow re-focusing, neck or backache, double vision and light sensitivity. By following the steps below you can reduce the symptoms of CVS:

  1. Have a computer eye exam.

    This is the most important thing you can do to prevent or treat computer vision problems.

  2. Use proper lighting.

    Eyestrain is often caused by excessively bright light coming in from outside and excessively bright light inside. When you use a computer, your ambient lighting should be about half that used in most offices. Eliminate exterior light by closing drapes, shades, or blinds. Reduce interior lighting by using fewer light bulbs or fluorescent tubes, or use lower intensity bulbs and tubes. If possible, position your monitor so that windows are to the side of it, instead of in front or back.

  3. Minimize glare.

    Glare on walls and finished surfaces, as well as reflections on the computer screen itself can also cause eyestrain. A good option is to purchase a computer screen filter for your monitor or use a computer hood. Have an anti-reflective coating applied to your glasses. This will prevent glare and reflections on the back side of your lenses from reaching your eyes.

  4. Adjust the brightness of your computer screen.

    Closely match the brightness of the environment with that of your computer screen, by using the buttons on the monitor. Adjust the monitor to make sure the contrast between the screen background and the on-screen characters is high. Ensure that the text size and color are optimized for the most comfort.

  5. Blink more often.

    Blinking is very important when working at a computer — it lubricates your eyes to avoid dryness and irritation. When working at a computer. Tears coating the eye evaporate more rapidly during long non-blinking phases and cause dry eyes.

  6. Exercise and stretch your eyes.

    Look away from your computer screen every 30 minutes and focus for 5-10 seconds on a distant object outside or down the hallway. Another exercise to re-adjust your focusing is to look at a far away object for 10-15 seconds and then at one near to you for 10-15 seconds, rocking your focusing back and forth between near and far. Do this 10 times. Both of these exercises will help you prevent strained near vision and stretch your focusing muscles.

  7. Take frequent breaks.

    According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), full-time computer users should take a 10-minute break every hour to reduce eyestrain problems. Part-time users should take frequent breaks after sitting in front of their display for more than a hour. However, if you feel the need to take more breaks, it may be an indication that you are suffering from computer vision syndrome, and you should see an optometrist immediately for a computer eye examination.

  8. Modify your workstation.

    If you need to look back and forth between a printed page and your computer screen, this can cause eyestrain. Place written pages on a copy stand adjacent to the monitor. Properly light the copy stand; you may want to use a desk lamp, but make sure it does not shine into your eyes or onto the computer screen. Adjust your workstation and chair to the correct height. Purchase ergonomic furniture to ensure proper screen locations and posture.

  9. Exercise even when sitting.

    Anyone in a sedentary job, especially those using computers, should stand up, move about, or exercise their arms, legs, back, neck, and shoulders frequently. NIOSH recommends several sitting, stretching, and joint rotating exercises for computer users.