Do you ever wonder if staring at a computer screen is making your eyes tired or dry? If so, you might have computer vision syndrome.
In the current age of technology, most of us spend hours every day staring at one digital screen or another. Time spent on the computer, texting on the phone, reading a book on an e-reader or tablet, or just watching TV all count as screen time.
Too much screen time can lead to CVS, which is also sometimes called digital eye strain. CVS is a collection of various eye and vision-related problems, rather than one specific condition.
Symptoms of CVS include:
- Tired or strained eyes
- Blurry vision
- Dry or irritated eyes
- Double vision
- Pain in the neck or shoulders
CVS occurs because your eyes have to work harder to focus on a computer or other type of screen than they do focusing on other objects.
This is especially true when you compare reading from a screen and reading from a printed page. In general, words in print are clearer and have better contrast between dark print and white paper.
Text on a computer screen may be slightly fuzzy, even if you don’t realize it. And computer text is often a shade of grey or another color rather than black, which means there is less contrast between the text and the background.
Working on a computer also forces your eyes to track back and forth and to constantly change focus as you look from the screen to paperwork on your desk and back to the screen.
Depending on your screen, your eyes may also have to work around flicker and glare from other light sources.
If you need glasses but don’t wear them or if your prescription is out of date, you may be more prone to CVS.
Getting older also makes it harder for your eyes to focus on the screen as the lens of the eye becomes less flexible with age.
But you don’t have to be an adult to develop CVS. Children who spend too much time watching TV, playing games on a tablet or phone, or working on a computer can also develop CVS.
Here are some things you can do to protect your vision and reduce CVS symptoms:
Adjust your space
Make sure your computer monitor is slightly below eye level to reduce neck strain. Use a stand to hold papers next to your monitor so you don’t have to look up and down as much while you work.
Adjust your monitor so that any light coming in through nearby windows won’t cause glare on the screen. If overhead lights are too bright, try to find a way to dim the lights, or turn them off and use a desk lamp that doesn’t shine directly on your monitor.
Remind yourself to blink more often to keep your eyes from becoming dry and irritated.
Follow the 20-20-20 rule. Set an alarm to remind yourself to take a short break every 20 minutes. Look away from your screen and focus on something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
Pick your own settings
Play with the adjustments on your monitor or screen to adjust the brightness, contrast and text size to the most comfortable settings for your eyes.
Consider computer glasses
At your next eye exam, talk to your doctor about whether you could benefit from special glasses just for use at the computer. These glasses can be set for the right distance. And you can also get special, tinted lenses that help block the blue light rays from the screen that can affect your vision.
If you spend two or more continuous hours looking at a digital screen, you are at risk for CVS. Talk to your health care provider or eye doctor to learn more ways to protect your vision.
Reviewed March 11, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
American Optometric Association. Computer Vision Syndrome. Web. March 10, 2016.
Web MD. Computer Vision Syndrome. Web. March 10, 2016.
Vision Service Plan. Combat Computer Vision Syndrome. Web. March 10, 2016.