With so many of us using computers at work and at home, computer vision syndrome has become a major job-related complaint as well as an issue for seniors and children. Our eyes were originally designed to see mostly from afar, rather than spending so much time on our digital devices. When we stare at a screen, focusing on what interests us, we submit our eyes to great tension. As a result, we strain our eyes and we do not blink as often as usual. In addition, computer screens, as well as tablets and smart phones, emit large amount of harmful blue light over long periods of usage (see our post about blue light)
While working in front of the computer, we can start noticing different eye problems: stinging, burning or dry eyes or even signs of dehydration of the cornea. We may also experience headaches, fatigue, pain in the neck and shoulders. It can lower productivity and increase the occurrence of work errors as well.
What is the impact on adults?
After approximately two hours spent on a screen, many of us experience some kind of physical discomfort. The most frequent symptoms of computer vision syndrome are:
neck and shoulder pain
What is the impact on children?
Kids experience the same symptoms but they can also show signs of:
reduced attention span
To make things worse, after a work day on the computer we often spend the evening watching TV, preventing our eyes to get the rest they need. Fatigue, redness, stinging, burning or tearing become a daily bother. (Read about 10 bad habits for your eyes).
How to protect your vision from computer vision syndrome?
Here are several easy steps and adjustments you can make to reduce your risk of developing computer vision syndrome (CVS):
Positioning your screen
Place your computer at a correct distance from your eyes. A good rule of thumb: the minimum distance should be equal to the length of the screen diagonal (i.e. for a 20″ monitor, your eyes should be at least 20″ away from the monitor)
The top of the viewable screen of your monitor should be at the same approximate height as your eyes. You should never have to look up.
Never place it in front of a window: the light source must be lateral
Adjust the contrast on your screen so it feels comfortable for your eyes. It will vary according to the lighting of the room.
Some exercises and tips to practice regularly
- Every 15 to 20 minutes, close your eyes slowly and then reopen them slowly (at least 10 times). This exercise will promote better hydration of the cornea.
- Close your eyes and remember what you just saw on your computer: this will stimulate your visual memory. Another good exercise is to pay attention to a small object near you, follow its contours with your eyes, then close your eyes and try to mentally reproduce this object. This is also an excellent way to promote visual memory and relax your eyes.
- Every hour or two, practice palming for at least 5 minutes. This will help relax you and rest your eyes: warm up your hands by rubbing your palms against each other. Cup your eyes up with your hands, keeping your eyes open. Position your palms so no light gets to your eyes. Don’t touch the eye lids and don’t press the eye sockets. Make sure there is no tension in your shoulders and your arms are completely supported (elbows on a table or a pillow). With your eyes gently covered, breathe deeply, relax, and imagine that you see total darkness
- Make sure that the ambient air is not too dry, if necessary place a humidifier in the work area. (A simple bowl of water near a heat source may suffice).
- Swing your chair slightly from left to right, then back and forth, eyes open and eyes closed, which will mitigate the fixity of your eyes.
- Blink regularly to moisturize the eyes.
- Take 10 long and deep breaths from the chest to the abdomen, imagining that the air reaches the eyes. These breaths will regenerate the eyes.
- Stretch gently – arms, legs, neck, hands, feet to relax your body. Be particularly careful to relax the neck muscles where much of the tension resides.
- Get up and go for a 10-minute walk or go fix yourself a nice cup of your favorite beverage. Or drink a glass of water. Remember that your eyes are composed mostly of water.
- Change your position frequently to be as comfortable as possible, to promote circulation and increase your productivity.
- Limit the use of laptops. Desktops are usually better than laptops, which do not comply with basic ergonomics.
- Wearing protective glasses against the effects of blue light screens is another way at your disposal.
- Yawning deeply several times, relaxes you and restores energy to your body: Inhale deeply through the mouth, then open your jaw, relax the face and exhale with a sigh.
Even if digital screens do not constitute an immediate threat to your eyes, they can be the cause of a serious discomfort. By following a few of these tips, you will protect your eyes from fatigue, irritation and dryness.