You have been sitting at your computer for hours. You have got your ergonomic workstation, so your arms and wrists do not hurt. You have got your ergonomic chair with built-in back support, so your back and shoulders do not hurt. And you have also accomplished all you set out to today. So you feel great. That is except for one thing...two actually. Your eyes are killing you—eyestrain.
While many forms of work can lead to eyestrain, most work-related eyestrain today relates to extended hours in front of a computer monitor called computer vision syndrome (CVS).
Our eyes are designed to constantly shift their focus between objects that are near and objects that are far away. Eyestrain can result when the eyes focus on a single, close up object for extended periods of time, exactly what working at a computer terminal usually requires.
Related symptoms include:
How can eyestrain and its related symptoms be avoided? First, have a yearly eye exam to make sure there are no problems with your eyes. If you wear eyeglasses you might discuss with your optometrist or ophthalmologist whether contact lenses or computer glasses may be helpful for you. Computer glasses are specifically designed for working at a computer monitor.
If you wear bifocals, especially if you are over age 50, consider getting executive bifocals. These are bifocals with the top half of the lens focused specifically for the distance you sit from your computer monitor, and the bottom half of the lens focused for reading materials.
There are a number of steps you can take to help avert or lessen eyestrain:
To help your muscles and eyes relax, try this exercise that you can do several times a day:
If you work in front of a computer screen or other VDTCVS, take the following additional steps:
Take the following steps to maximize the lighting conditions on and around your computer screen:
If you end the day feeling bleary-eyed, try incorporating some of these tactics into your workday. You may be surprised what a difference such minor adjustments can make.
American Academy of Ophthalmology
National Eye Institute
Canadian Family Physician
Canadian Ophthalmological Society
Computers and your eyes. Prevent Blindness America website. Available at: http://www.preventblindness.org/computers-and-your-eyes. Accessed October 14, 2013.
Eye health tips. National Eye Institute website. Available at: http://www.nei.nih.gov/healthyeyes/eyehealthtips.asp. Accessed October 14, 2013.
Improving visual comfort at a computer workstation. CTD Resource Network, Inc. website. Available at: http://www.tifaq.org/articles/visual_comfort-jan99-jeffrey_anshel.html.
Rosenfield, M. Computer vision syndrome. Ophthalmic Physiol Opt. 2011;31(5):502-515.
Tribley J, McClain S, et al. Tips for computer vision syndrome relief and prevention. Work. 2011;39(1):85-87.
Last reviewed October 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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