What is Computer Vision Syndrome?
Computer vision syndrome (CVS) results from prolonged digital device use. It is estimated the average American worker spends 7 hours a day on the computer between work and home. 90% of the 70 million U.S. workers who use computers for more than 3 hours per day experience symptoms of CVS. CVS is also known as digital eye strain or visual fatigue. Symptoms may also result in an increase in the number of errors during computer tasks and a decrease in productivity. A 5% and 15% improvement in productivity was observed for the breaks and breaks plus exercise, respectively.
- Computer vision syndrome is the result of prolonged digital device use.
- The syndrome may be caused by intraocular and extraocular etiologies.
- Computer vision can present with both ocular and systemic symptoms including headaches and tired eyes.
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Understanding Computer Vision Syndrome
Workforce personnel spend more time viewing electronic devices with visual displays, such as computers, laptops, smart phones, tablets, and e-readers which contribute to eye strain. Children are also affected because they spend many hours each day using electronic devices for completing schoolwork, playing video games, and socializing on cell phones.
Symptoms of computer vision syndrome can be ocular and systemic including eye strain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and neck and shoulder pain. These symptoms occur because the individual does not take necessary breaks to allow their visual system and body to recover from computer tasks.
Risk Factors for Computer Vision Syndrome
Computer vision syndrome can be caused by intraocular etiologies like refractive error, accommodative spasm, binocular vision dysfunction or an extraocular etiology like ergonomics. Dry eye is the major contributing factor to computer vision syndrome.
Dry eyes may be due to environmental factors that dry the cornea, reduced blink rate, incomplete blinking, increased corneal exposure, age and gender, systemic disease, medications, and contact lens wear.
Poor lighting, glare and screen reflections, improper viewing distances, poor posture, and uncorrected vision problems may all induce symptoms.
Computer Vision Syndrome Symptoms
Computer vision syndrome symptoms vary, but may include:
- Tired eyes
- Blurred vision
- Double vision
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Light sensitivity
The term asthenopia includes a multitude of symptoms like eyestrain, eye fatigue, discomfort, burning, irritation, pain, ache, sore eyes, diplopia, photophobia, blur, itching, tearing, dryness, and foreign-body sensation.
How to Diagnosis Computer Vision Syndrome
A comprehensive eye examination by an eye doctor is needed to diagnose and assess computer vision syndrome. A comprehensive history is helpful to identify computer vision syndrome which may include a patient’s history of symptoms, general health problems, medication use, and/or environmental factors that may contribute. Additional testing often includes visual acuity, refraction(prescription) testing, and how the eyes focus, move, and work together.
How to Treat Computer Vision Syndrome
Computer vision syndrome management includes a combination of ocular treatment and ergonomic improvements. Proper lighting, anti-glare filters, ergonomic positioning of computer monitors, and work breaks may improve visual comfort. The increase in hand-held devices usage may impose different challenges when compared to desktop computers. Patients should be advised a desktop computer is preferable to a laptop for daily use.
Ocular therapies may include eye drops and glasses for computer vision syndrome designed to relieve ocular surface-related symptoms. Small refractive errors (astigmatism between 0.50 and 1.00D), which may have not been previously prescribed, should be corrected in a patient who is viewing an electronic screen for an extensive period of time. All glasses for computer vision syndrome should have an anti-reflective treatment applied to the lenses to reduce the glare and halo off digital devices and monitors.
Patients should be educated regarding their work time. Fixation on any near object for a sustained period of time may lead to asthenopia. Patients are often advised of the 20-20-20 rule. Individuals should take a 20-second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes. Frequent blinking often helps maintain eye moisture.
Contact lens wears may be advised their glasses may be preferable for extended screen time. The presence of a contact lens on the cornea alters the blink rate significantly. Contact lens wearers are 12 times more likely than those who do not have a prescription and five times more likely than spectacle wearers to report dry eye symptoms.
More research is needed on the best treatments for patients with computer vision syndrome. For more information on treatment options check out our article How to Treat Computer Vision Syndrome.