If your eyes, head and other body parts begin to hurt while you’re working at your computer, you may have what ophthalmologists call Computer Vision Syndrome, or CVS.
There’s good news, though, according to the eye experts at the University of Pennsylvania: “The symptoms of CVS can be easily erased.”
“While eye-health professionals have yet to find CVS as a cause of any permanent eye damage, the pain and discomfort associated with the problem can affect workplace performance or the enjoyment of home activities,” according to the General Ophthalmology Service at Penn’s Scheie Eye Institute.
- eyes that are dry, itchy or red;
- blurred vision;
- neck-aches; and
- muscle fatigue.
If this sounds familiar, here are some suggestions from the experts at Penn for managing pain:
1. Reduce glare and harsh reflections on the computer screen by modifying the room’s lighting, closing window shades, changing the contrast or brightness of the screen, or attaching a filter or hood to the monitor. (It also helps to place the screen at a 90-degree angle to windows, other eye experts advise.)
Penn’s experts offer this advice: If you cup your hands over your eyes like the bill of a baseball cap to block the lights while staring at the monitor, and you immediately notice improvement, “then lighting changes should be made.”
2. Move the computer screen to improve eye comfort. The screen should be about 20-26 inches from the eyes to give them comfortable focusing distance. Ideally, the center of the monitor should be 4-8 inches below the eyes to reduce neck strain and to lessen the exposed area of the eyeballs, which can help reduce dryness and itching.
3. Put your reference materials as close to the screen as possible, lessening the need to constantly refocus the eye and swing the head back and forth. This decreases muscle fatigue, headaches and eyestrain. A document holder next to the screen can be a great help.
4. Improve your posture by using adjustable equipment, helping reduce strain on the back, neck, shoulders and eyes. It’s best to adjust the height of the chair so the knees are bent at 90-degree angles with the feet flat on the floor.
5. Take frequent breaks from the computer to reduce eye-and muscle fatigue.
6. Determine whether the area where you’re working is dry, dusty or drafty. This also can affect the eyes.
7. If you wear glasses, make sure the glasses sit properly on the face, and don’t slip down the nose ““ especially important for bifocal or trifocal wearers. More than 70 percent of those affected by the syndrome wear glasses or contact lenses.
8. Try blinking more often. Computer use causes a decrease of blinking to about one-third of the normal rate, causing the eyes to dry out and become itchy. If the added blinking doesn’t work, eye doctors can prescribe drops made especially for contact-lens wearers.
Penn’s ophthalmologists say a good first step in eliminating CVS is to visit an eye doctor for a new or updated prescription. In some cases, doctors may recommend glasses for people who normally do not need glasses. It’s also important to remember that CVS may not be to blame; only your ophthalmologist can determine whether CVS or another disorder is wreaking havoc on your vision.