May is Healthy Vision Month, which makes it a perfect time to evaluate your eye health. If you sit at a desk all day staring at a computer for your job, you could be in danger of specific eye problems like computer vision syndrome (CVS) and dry eye syndrome (DES).
According to the American Optometric Association, CVS is a broad category for several vision and eye-related issues caused by using a computer for long periods of time.
Common symptoms of this syndrome include blurry vision, shoulder and neck pain, headaches, eyestrain and dry eyes, according to the website.
These problems can be caused by bad posture, incorrect distances from the computer screen, improper lighting, computer screen glare, and untreated vision issues. Some glasses and contacts may not be made properly for computer use as well.
Dry eye syndrome is also a specific eye problem that many people experience. It’s characterized by the body producing insufficient tears to moisten the eyes, or lacking good quality tears, according to the American Optometric Association.
Some symptoms of dry eyes include irritation, burning and constant watering of the eyes, as well as blurry vision and the feeling of having something stuck in the eye.
Dr. Jeffrey Anshel, an optometrist who has specialized in computer vision syndrome for over 20 years, said in an email that he helped developed the term in the early 90s.
He said that CVS can lead to discomfort and poor work performance, even if it is not considered an actual eye disease. He added that CVS and dry eye syndrome are both connected.
“If someone has dry eyes, it will get worse if they use a computer regularly,” Anshel said. “If they are borderline, they'll notice it more during their work-week. Someone can have DES without computer use ... but computer use definitely brings it out.”
Older women are more likely to have dry eye issues, which could be related to hormonal changes, he said.
Besides the physical aspect of CVS and DES, there is also an emotional aspect.
“Anything that interferes with our vision can cause mental (and physical) stress,” Anshel said.