Are you suffering from ‘computer eyes’?

Eye problems and computer vision syndrome have skyrocketed across the world as we increase our daily exposure to computers, tablets, mobiles and other handheld electronic devices. Whether at work or at play, most of us spend hours each day stressing and straining our eyes by staring at bright, glaring electronic screens. According to the Optometrists Association Australia, in 2010 up to 48% of office workers suffered from computer related eye fatigue. Recent studies have also suggested a possible link between computer vision syndrome (CVS) and the development of open-angle glaucoma, with the risk increasing notably over time. Aside from negative affects on the long-term health of our eyes, CVS can lead to a host of related health issues and is also thought to contribute to low workplace productivity and depression.

‘Computer eye’ culprits

Examine your workplace to assess how many of these factors are present, as one or more of them can significantly contribute to your risk of computer vision syndrome:

  • Staring at a computer/electronic device for hours on end with no break.
  • Sitting 30cm or less away from the screen or too far away.
  • Squinting to view small or unclear text and images on screen.
  • Using a glaring screen or one reflecting light or shadows.
  • Working with harsh or flickering overhead or background light.
  • Working with constantly moving air (air-conditioners, fans, ducts).
  • Working in a stressful, high-pressure environment.

Are your eyes taking strain?

Be on CVS alert if you have one or more of the symptoms below, particularly if they are ongoing and noticebaly appear when you work for long periods on a computer:

  • Irritated, itchy, tired, burning or red eyes
  • Dry eye syndrome
  • Excessively watery eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision (diploplia)
  • Multiple vision (polyopia)
  • Eye strain or fatigue (asthenopia)
  • Difficulty refocusing the eyes
  • Neck pain, shoulder or back pain
  • Headaches, migraines

What you can do to lessen your CVS risk

Workspace audit:

  • If your screen flickers or displays fuzzy images consider replacing it and opt for the largest, flat screen possible, with adjustable brightness and contrast functions.
  • Keep at least an arm’s length distance between your eyes and the screen.
  • Adjust the top of your screen to as close to eye level as feels comfortable.
  • Check your work area for glare and block off any reflective light from windows with blinds/curtains.
  • Ensure your computer is not placed directly in front of or behind a window.
  • Use anti-glare screen filters if necessary.
  • Examine the light setup and prioritise the repalcement of lighting such as halogen and fluorescent with more eye-friendly options such as full spectrum lighting.
  • Position your desk and computer so that you are not directly under a source of light.

Eye care regimen for computer users:

  • Ensure you blink enough to keep your eyes moist – use lubricating drops for constantly dry eyes.
  • If you wear contacts and are battling with dry, itchy eyes, consider using glasses for work.
  • Give your eyes regular breaks from the computer – use the 20/20/20 rule (for every 20 minute of work, look at something approximately 20 feet (six meters) away for 20 seconds).
  • Don’t spend your lunch hour behind your computer! Get outdoors and look around so your eyes have varying points of focus (and benefit from fresh air and increased blood flow).
  • Exercise your eyes regularly – sit upright, look forward, keep you head still and move your eyes slowly up and down and then left and right, repeating the process as necessary.
  • Visit your optometrist regularly for a full eye examination to ensure optimal eye health and detect any underlying eye diseases or conditions that could be contributing to current eye problems.

Information provided by Dr Jan Coetzee of Insight Optometrists, Indooroopilly (Brisbane, Queensland). Dr Coetzee holds a doctorate in optometry and is dedicated to raising awareness of eye health issues and providing high quality, protective eyewear. Insight Optometrists is also an accredited member of the Eyecare Plus group, a select collective of clinically-driven optometry practices across Australia. More info: www.insightoptom.com.au