Dry eyes? Headaches? Blurred vision? You may be one of the millions suffering from Computer Vision Syndrome, or "CVS".
Staring at a screen all day has become a fact of life for many of us, and children are increasingly becoming casualties of the technological age too. But what is it doing to our eyesight?
A recent US study showed Americans spend 444 minutes per day looking at screens, while Brits clocked up 411 minutes, Australians 396 minutes, and Canadians 376 minutes of screen time. While there hasn't been a similar study here in New Zealand, optometrists believe we wouldn't fare much better.
Could you be at risk of Computer Vision Syndrome?
If you work in front of a computer monitor, then sadly, yes. As we age, the lens in the eye becomes less flexible, making it less efficient at adjusting to different conditions. If you already have an underlying eye issue, such as short sightedness, you may be more prone to CVS, especially if you don't wear the right glasses to help compensate for it.
• Dry eyes
• "Tired" eyes, especially after long periods of screen time
• Neck and upper back pain
• Blurred or double vision
• Irritation and discomfort of the eyes
At first, you might only get symptoms at work, but over time, these can increase to an everyday occurrence.
But the news isn't all bad. Currently there isn't any evidence to show screen usage leads to long- term eye damage, and resting the eye muscles is usually enough to revert them back to their usual state.
Four steps to minimise eye discomfort
• Pay regular visits to an optometrist. This is important because wearing the correct glasses, if you need them at all, can decrease your risk of CVS. Specialised "computer" glasses are also available, which can reduce eye strain by filtering out glare and reflective light. If you work with a computer every day, some employers offer free eye checks to staff. Talk to your workplace to see if this is possible.
• Adjust your screen. Your computer screen should be sited below eye level and about 50-70 cm away from your face to avoid eye and neck strain. Play around with the contrast and brightness settings on your screen to find a level that feels most comfortable for you. If glare is unavoidable, ask for a glare filter to be fitted to your screen.
• Blink often. Office air con can cause dry eyes, but blinking is the most effective way to keep them moist and comfortable. If your eyes are especially dry, try artificial tears.
• Look away from the screen. Rest your eyes every minute or so by looking out the window or around the room. If looking at a computer monitor all day is an unavoidable aspect of your job, don't go home and screen gaze all evening. Give your eyes a break, they will thank you for it.