The use of computers in the workplace has significantly increased in the past years. As a result, there has been a rise in work related visual discomfort. Computer Eyestrain Syndrome, also know as Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), is used to describe visual symptoms caused by computer use such as:
- Eye fatigue
- Visual overstimulation
- Blurred vision
- Eye pain
- Dry eyes
- Irritated eyes
In the past, office workers had a variety of different task such as filing, reading, phone calls and meetings. The eyes were exposed to different stimulus thus giving them the “break” they needed. However, in today’s workplace jobs are increasingly computer focused. Workers spend a better part of their day responding to emails, reading and writing documents electronically and even hosting video meetings. This all increases the strain on the worker’s eyes.
Computer Vision Syndrome can affect anyone who is exposed to high amounts of screen time; however, those who are already affected with visual difficulties may be at even greater risk.
Common risk factors in the office include but are not limited to:
- Observing images or font on the screen which are too small
- Glare from lights or natural lighting
- Working with background lighting which is too bright or too dark
- Sitting at an unsuitable distance from the screen (too close or too far)
- Looking at the computer screen for long periods of time
- Working in a stressful environment
Tips to help prevent Computer Eyestrain Syndrome
Check your monitor:
The monitor should be placed 16”-29’’ in distance away from the worker. A simple measurement is one arm’s length. Monitor height is important as it improves the neck and head posture. The top of the monitor should be at the same height as the top of the worker’s head, thus having their eyes in-line with the upper third area of the monitor.
Monitor brightness should be relative to the office lighting, if the office is bright the monitor brightness should also be bright and vice-versa. Lastly, ensure the text size is appropriate as small font size will strain the eyes and can lead to the whole upper body leaning in towards the screen.
Reduce glare and check lighting:
Constant glare can increase the risk for the computer user’s eyes to overstrain. To reduce glare, it is recommended to sit 90 degrees to the window, thus having the natural lighting coming in from the side rather than directly towards the eyes or to the screen. Monitor glare filters are also available to reduce any added reflection.
Proper lighting is crucial, however, can be variable based on the worker’s visual issues and needs. Task lamps with non-fluorescent bulbs are effective to reduce strain and allow the worker to control the lighting based on comfort level.
Take visual breaks:
The worker’s eyes are constantly stimulated by the work performed on the computer and can easily become fatigued and overworked. Clinical optometrists suggest the 20/20/20 rule. The rule implies that after 20 minutes of computer use, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
Check your posture:
Neck and shoulder posture are crucial to reduce eyestrain, neck fatigue and frequent headaches. It is important that the worker’s shoulders and back remain against the backrest, the ears should be in-line and over the shoulder and the arms relaxed in a 90-degree posture rested on the armrests.
Having a properly adjusted ergonomic chair will help improve one’s posture and reduce the habit of leaning in towards the screen. An adjustable headrest can also reduce neck pain and headaches as the headrest provides support and feedback for proper neck and head alignment.
Have your eyes tested:
If a vision prescription is not up to date, the eyes may be working much harder than they should be. It is encouraged that regular computer users should undergo a yearly vision test so that any eye problems can be discussed with the optometrist. Contact lens wearers have an increased risk for dry and irritated eyes, therefore, proper hydration is promoted and eye drops may be required.
Those with progressive/bi-focal glasses are at risk for increased neck strain due to a constant head tilt. As a result, for those wearing the progressive or bi-focal glasses lowering the monitor below head height will help reduce the head movement. Common changes such as computer and anti-glare lenses can improve the symptoms of eyestrain.
If you believe you are experiencing symptoms of CVS, it is recommended that you consult with your family physician/optometrist to determine your course of treatment. In a work related setting, an ergonomic assessment would also be beneficial. A regulated health professional has the knowledge to evaluate your workstation to assess the risks, educate on proper positioning and behaviours, as well as provide proper recommendations to address your specific needs.
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