Computer Related Eye Strain

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Eye Strain from Computer Use has become the bane of contemporary technology-driven life.  A large number of people suffer from it and it costs employers and health care systems both in fixing the problem and from loss of productivity. 

The most common symptoms of eye strain:

  • Eyes hurting.

  • Eyes being tired.

  • Eyes stinging or itching.

  • Eyes being either too dry or too watery.
  • Double or blurry vision.

  • Hypersensitivity to light.

  • Headaches.

Causes of eye strain:

  • By nature, our eyes function best when they focus on a flat white paper with dark print on it.  This type of image is clear with a good contrast.  A computer screen, on the other hand, has light coming from behind the writing, which yields a much hazier image.  One can mimic this effect by staring at a printed sheet with a light shining from behind it.  The image will be equally blurry and the eye strain symptoms will soon follow.

  • The main cause of computer-related eye strain is, however, our poor computer work habits.  One problem, since we become so absorbed in whatever we're reading, we do not blink enough.  Try to stare at anything else without blinking, and you will have the same dry or watery eyes.

  • Another bad habit is that we do not look away from the screen enough.  This means that our eyes are constantly focused on a point near us, instead of allowing them to naturally alternate between nearby and distant objects.

  • Office spaces are also notoriously poorly designed for long hours at the computer.  The air conditioning dries out our eyes even without intense staring, and the lights tend to be bright fluorescents that reflect off the screen.

Tips to Eliminate Computer-Related Eye Strain:

  • Concentrate on blinking much more often, and even close your eyes for a few seconds every five minutes.

  • Look away from the screen every three minutes and briefly focus on a distant object. Set an alarm to beep if you forget.  This is easiest if the computer is set up so that you do not face a wall, but a mirror above your screen can do just as well if you cannot re-design the whole office.

  • Use screens or curtains to block the office's bright fluorescent lighting from the computer cubicles. The best lighting is a desk lamp that directs its light towards the ceiling.

  • Never sit within 20 inches from the computer screen, and sit straight in front of it, rather than to the side.

  • Eliminate as much glare as possible. You can do this either through moving things around your office until objects that reflect on the screen are gone, or you can buy a computer anti-glare screen which you stick onto the computer screen.  Office supply stores sell them for anything from $11 to $25.  A Cornell University study has found that these can eliminate 50% of eye strain symptoms.

If these recommendations do not work, be sure to have your eyes tested.  If you are already have a pair of prescription glasses and you are still experiencing discomfort, you may need a separate prescription especially for computer use.