Sometimes the most serious threats to your eyesight do not come from the natural effects of aging or the slow progression of a disease, but from environmental factors and simple bad habits over which you actually can exercise a great deal of control. Among the most common of these relatively avoidable vision problems is a condition known as Computer Vision Syndrome, or CVS. Accounting for more than 10 million visits to eye doctors every year, CVS is believed to affect as many as 70% of Americans, and is considered one of the most wide-spread workplace ergonomic issues today. Fortunately, there are a few precautions that you can take to prevent this condition from seriously impacting your life.
Activities that require precise visual focus rely on the fovea centralis, a small area in the center of the retina where the color-receptive photosensitive cells are most densely concentrated. When performing tasks where fine focus is important, such as detailed crafting, reading, or even driving, the tiny muscles surrounding the eye constantly make tiny adjustments to keep the fovea lined up perfectly with the target. Over time, eye fatigue develops, which leads to blurred vision and headaches. Simultaneously, during periods of intense focus, people tend to blink less frequently, depriving the eye of the natural oils and mucus secretions that keep the corneas clean and moist. As the eyes start to dry out and become irritated, they develop the characteristic itchy “sand-paper” feeling that is commonly associated with sleepiness. The body instinctively tries to compensate for these adverse conditions and the head stretches slightly forward, eventually producing neck and shoulder pain over time. Ultimately, these symptoms are even further exacerbated in office settings because the intense, energy-efficient short wavelength blue light common in fluorescent lights and electronic devices has been shown to be more damaging to the eye’s delicate internal structures.
All of these various CVS symptoms tend to gradually increase in intensity with prolonged computer use, and can eventually prove to be so debilitating that those experiencing them find it necessary to miss work in order to recover. However, there are ways to reduce the symptoms that can be as easy as following some simple guidelines:
- Make sure the lighting in the room does not shine directly on your screen. Glare forces the eyes to work harder to maintain shifting focus and can cause your symptoms to worsen more rapidly.
- Position the computer so the head rests in a natural position that minimizes looking upward at the computer. This can help prevent neck and shoulder strain and make you more comfortable.
- Remember the 20-20-20 rule. Taking a short break to focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds once every 20 minutes gives eye muscles an opportunity to stretch and relax.
- Don’t forget to blink. The simple action of blinking naturally lubricates and rejuvenates the eyes and can prevent serious irritation and potential long-term damage.
If you feel as though you may be experiencing Computer Vision Syndrome, or have any other concerns about your vision health, please contact Dr. William Segal or Dr. Marc Lay today to schedule an appointment for a comprehensive medical eye exam. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more information on how to keep your vision clear.