How Constant Screen Time is Destroying Your Eye Health

More and more women are reporting problems with their vision, and their computers are to blame.

Computer Vision Syndrome

Moira Saganski’s computer gives her a headache every day, and it’s not from the amount of e-mails in her inbox. The 54-year-old suffers from computer vision syndrome, a condition that’s becoming increasingly common among middle-aged women who spend a lot of time looking at computer screens.

Do You Have Computer Vision Syndrome?

“Computer vision syndrome [C.V.S.] describes eye and vision symptoms that are associated with digital screens, including computers, smartphones and televisions,” says Dr. Mira Acs, an optometrist based in Toronto. “We’re seeing a higher volume of baby boomers complaining of eye strains and fatigue, and C.V.S. has become more frequent over the past five years as technologies have evolved. We all stare at screens of all kinds for long periods of time.”

Saganski spends anywhere from six to 13 hours working on a computer every day, and it’s taking a toll on her vision. “I first realized that my eyes were getting blurry and very achey,” she recalls.  “My vision was changing and I had a lot of headaches that were related to strain on the eye.”

Those are the symptoms of computer vision syndrome, says Acs, as are light sensitivity and dry eyes. However, as these ailments are often associated with general fatigue, she says that many people don’t even notice they have a problem.  But left untreated, these symptoms could persist and even worsen.

Living With Computer Vision Syndrome

“Sometimes computer vision syndrome requires vision correction,” says Acs. “You may need to have your glasses or contact lenses fit for how you use a computer.”  An optometrist may recommend computer glasses, which have a different prescription on the top part of the lenses that allows you to focus on a computer screen. You may also get a prescription for artificial tears to relieve dry eyes.

Saganski says that after being diagnosed with computer vision syndrome, she has become more aware of how her computer affects her vision.  “Because I’m aware of it, I do try to take a break [when using a computer]. I go totally out of my office and take a walk around the work stations,” she says.

4 Ways To Protect Your Eyes From Computer-Strain

1) Take breaks
Saganski is certainly on the right track with her short office walks.

When you’re starting at the computer, your tablet, or phone, the Canadian Association of Optometrists recommends following what they call the “20-20-20 rule”: Take a 20-second break from using your computer every 20 minutes and focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet away.This gives your eyes a chance to rest and recover from strain.

2) Adjust your screen
Be screen smart, says Acs. “Take a few minutes to adjust the brightness and contrast of your screen, and make sure it’s positioned correctly’about arm’s length [about 50 cm]  from your eyes.” The screen should also be places at 20 degrees below eye level.

3) Get the Right Light
“The lighting in the room is also very important,” says Acs. If possible, try and  cut glare and reflections on your home computer by diffusing the light that hits the screen. This will help reduce the amount of squinting you do.

4) Visit the Eye Doctor
Make regular appointments with your optometrist to ensure that you’re wearing the appropriate corrective eyewear. You also want to make sure that what seems like C.V.S. symptoms aren’t the result of another vision problem.