on Feb 21, 18

There is a new syndrome in town

This insidious syndrome affects up to 70% of the population in developed countries. The syndrome is called ‘Computer Vision Syndrome’ or ‘Digital Eye Strain’.

What is Computer Vision Syndrome?

According to the America Optometric Association Computer Vision Syndrome / Digital Eye Strain are ‘problems related to computer, I-phone, tablet, e-reader and cell phone use’. The discomfort and vision problems often increases in direct relationship to the amount of digital screen use.

What are digital devices?

As much as we depend on our mobile devices, our computers and smart phones may be causing us some vision problems.

  • computer screens
  • smart phones
  • tablets
  • e-reader
  • hand-held electronic devices 
  • similar electronic devices

The facts

Studies show that the average American worker spends a minimum of seven hours per day on their computer and mobile devices while working either from an office or from home.

Computer Vision Syndrome affects those that spend as little as two hours per day on a digital screen.

Vision specialist, Dr. Jeff Taylor MD reports that ‘at least one out of every four patients complaining about eye strain due to reading text on small screens’. Those affected by Computer Vision Syndrome experience vision discomfort and or vision problems when viewing a digital screens over an extended period of time.  These vision related problems increase in direct correlation to the amount of digital screen use.

The good news is that the levels of radiation from computer screens are below levels that can cause eye damage. Peer reviewed studies show that unlike X-rays and UV Rays, digital screens give off very little to no harmful radiation.

Digital screen DO expose your eyes to blue light. (Blue light is the light emitted by electronics including energy- saving lightbulbs. and hand -held electronic devices.)

Although, the Blue Light exposure from digital screens is small compared to the amount of exposure ones gets from the sun it can still have a negative affect on one’s overall health and well-being.

Studies show that Blue Light decreases levels of melatonin which may make it harder to sleep and over time negatively affects one’s hormone balance. According to Harvard University the exposure to blue light at night may ‘throw the bodies biological clocks out of-the circadian rhythm’ out of whack’ and sleep suffers.

While these complaints of eye fatigue, pain, stress, and discomfort are common among digital screen users these symptoms may not necessarily be directly ‘caused’ by the digital screen itself. This said, there is may still reason for concern due to the potential long-term effects of screen exposure.

Common Symptoms

Eye problems from computer use isn’t just one specific problem but rather includes a wide range of symptoms. Research shows that 50-70% of people who work at a computer screen have at least some of the following common symptoms.

  • eyestrain
  • headaches
  • blurred vision or double vision
  • sore eyes
  • tired or fatigued eyes 
  • dry, red eyes
  • overall mental fatigue 
  • neck and shoulder pain

Please note that if nothing is done to address the cause of the problems, the symptoms will continue to recur and perhaps worsen with future screen use.

The good news is that most vision problems and many of the symptoms experienced by the user are reduced and will decline after stopping using computer and other digital devices.

Why is this a problem?

Viewing a computer of digital screen often makes the eyes work harder and as a result the unique characteristics of a high visual demands computers and digital screen device viewing make many individuals at risk of developing Computer Vision Syndrome.

When you work at a computer your eyes must continuously focus and refocus. In addition, the eyes have to move back and forth to read as well as look up and down at papers and back to the computer to type.

Unlike a book or magazine, the screen adds contrast, flicker, and glare. The eyes must continually respond to the changing images on the screen in order for the brain to process what it is seeing.

Possible causes of Computer Vision Syndrome

  • poor lighting
  • glare on the digital screen
  • improper viewing distances
  • poor sitting posture
  • uncorrected vision problems
  • nutritional deficiencies
  • reading in bed

a combination of one or more of these factor

Who is at the highest risk?

  1. Those who spend two or more hours of continuous use on a digital screen devise every day.
  2. Children and teens.

Why are children at high risk?

Research has linked excessive screen to attention deficit, disorders, sleep disorders, obesity, and even social issues.

  • Children’s vision and brains are still developing.
  • Children are creating (potentially) life-long habits and patterns.
  • A recent NEI-funded study found that children’s eyes absorb more blue light than adults from digital device screens.
  • As children become interested in computer and video games they are likely to interact less with their family and friends.

Advice for parents and guardians of children

Monitor screen content and time and set clear boundaries and guidelines for your children.

Monitor the content that your children are viewing as not all content is appropriate for children.

Set specific time limits so that your children are able to learn self control and moderation in the use of their personal electronic devices.

The 20-20-20 formula

After twenty minutes on the screen spend at least 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet in the distance.

Playtime

After each hour of continued screen use have your children play actively for at least 15 minutes.

Get your children’s vision checked on a regular basis

Proper lighting and body posture

Tools that support healthy vision

Eye Doctor Visits

  • Visit your eye doctor for regular exams. Staying current with your comprehensive eye exams is an excellent way to keep your vision clear, strong,  and healthy.
  • Communicate with your eye care professional about any vision related problems you are experiencing. Uncorrected vision problems can increase the severity of Computer Vision Syndrome of Digital Eye Strain symptoms.
  • Keep your prescriptions current and up to date. 

Eyeglasses or contacts that are prescribed for daily use may not be adequate for computer work and in some cases individuals that require the use of eyeglasses for other daily activities benefit from eyeglasses that are prescribed specifically for computer use.

Your personal eye care doctor will determine if your regular prescription is adequate or if you would benefit from a different prescription to use while working on a digital screen. These special lenses meet the unique visual demands of screen use and have a different lens powers, tint and or coating that is designed to enhance your visual abilities and comfort.

Remember, Computer Vision Syndrome should be temporary!  If you notice your vision is not returning to normal you should visit your eye doctor and share your concerns with your doctor.

Visual training

A structured program of vision therapy also called ‘visual training’ may be necessary and immensely helpful.

These vision therapy programs train the eyes and brain to work together and help to remedy deficiencies in eye movement, focus, and learning and overall reinforce eye-brain coordination and help to improve one’s visual abilities.

Vision therapies may include office-based as well as home training procedures.

Take regular breaks from the screen

  • 20-20-20
  • Every 20 minutes look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.

Playtime

For every hour that you spend on a computer screen or mobile device get up and move. Enjoy at least 5-10 minutes of unstructured playtime. If possible go outside and expand your view. Breath deeply and clear your mind and rest your eyes.

Posture

Establish proper working distances and proper posture for screen viewing. Viewing distances and angels used for this type of work are also often different from those commonly used for reading or writing tasks.

Rearrange your desk

Establish proper working distances for screen viewing.

The best position for your monitor is slightly below eye level and about 20-25 inches from your face.

Put a book stand next to your monitor and place any printed materials you are working upon the stand.

Adjust your screen settings

Adjust the brightness, contrast, and font size until you determine what is ideal and most comfortable for you.

Cut the glare

Background glare and reflections off the screen place addition demands on both the eyes and the brain.

Prevention or reduction of this vision problems associated with Computer Vision Syndrome or Digital Eye Strain involves taking steps to control lighting and glare on the device screen.

  • Change the lighting around you to reduces the glare from your computer screen.
  • Install a dimmer switch to lights or buy a desk lamp with a moveable shade that casts light evenly on your desk.
  • Add glare filters to your computer screen.

Nutritional support and supplements designed specifically for eye health.

Learn about the different nutrients that are required for overall vision health. There are numerous nutrients that support the health of your eyes, nervous system, and brain.

Consider supplementing with a high-quality comprehensive formula that is designed to nourish the health of your eyes and vision.

In conclusion

Please note that if nothing is done to address the cause of the problems, the symptoms will continue to recur and perhaps worsen with future screen use.
The good news is that there are tools and treasures to prevent Computer Vision Syndrome and to support your overall well-being and health.

Your sight matter, take excellent preventative care of your vision and enjoy all of the beautiful sights the world has to offer.

 

 

 

A lover of our beautiful planet, the animals, and people Dr. Tara Michelle is a Natural Physician, Wellness Educator, and Wordsmith. 
Tara holds a BS in Kinesiology, a Masters in Education, and a doctorate as a Naturopathic Physician. In addition Tara is a licensed Massage Therapist for both humans and animals. She leads wellness play-shops and retreats.
Read more blogs from Dr. Tara Michelle

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