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Computer Eye Strain: 7 Steps for Relief

COMPUTER VISION SYNDROME

Here are 7 easy steps you can take to reduce your risk of computer eye strain and other common symptoms of computer vision syndrome (CVS):

1. Get a comprehensive eye exam.

Having a routine comprehensive eye exam is the most important thing you can do to prevent or treat computer vision problems. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), computer users should have an eye exam before they start working on a computer and once a year thereafter.

Computer Eye Strain: 7 Steps for Relief2. Use proper lighting.

Eye strain often is caused by excessively bright light either from outdoor sunlight coming in through a window or from harsh interior lighting. When you use a computer, your ambient lighting should be about half as bright as that typically found in most offices.

Eliminate exterior light by closing drapes, shades or blinds. Reduce interior lighting by using fewer light bulbs or fluorescent tubes, or use lower intensity bulbs and tubes. If possible, position your computer monitor or screen so windows are to the side, instead of in front or behind it.

3. Minimize Glare

Glare on walls and finished surfaces, as well as reflections on your computer screen also can cause computer eye strain. Consider installing an anti-glare screen on your monitor and, if possible, paint bright white walls a darker color with a matte finish.

If you have not already done so, replace your old tube-style monitor (called a cathode ray tube or CRT) with a flat-panel liquid crystal display (LCD), like those on laptop computers.

LCD screens are easier on the eyes and usually have an anti-reflective surface. Old-fashioned CRT screens can cause a noticeable “flicker” of images, which is a major cause of computer eye strain.

4. Adjust your computer display settings.

Adjusting the display settings of your computer can help reduce eye strain and fatigue. Generally, these adjustments are beneficial:

Brightness. Adjust the brightness of the display so it’s approximately the same as the brightness of your surrounding workstation. As a test, look at the white background of this Web page. If it looks like a light source, it’s too bright. If it seems dull and gray, it may be too dark.

Text size and contrast. Adjust the text size and contrast for comfort, especially when reading or composing long documents. Usually, black print on a white background is the best combination for comfort.

Color temperature. This is a technical term used to describe the spectrum of visible light emitted by a color display. Blue light is short-wavelength visible light that is associated with more eye strain than longer wavelength hues, such as orange and red. Reducing the color temperature of your display lowers the amount of blue light emitted by a color display for better long-term viewing comfort. For computers running on a Microsoft Windows operating system, display settings can be adjusted in Control Panel. For an Apple computer, display settings are found in Systems Preferences (in the Applications folder in Finder). In some cases, the color temperature of a desktop computer monitor is adjusted on the display itself.

5. Blink more often.

Blinking is very important when working at a computer; blinking moistens your eyes to prevent dryness and irritation. When working at a computer, people blink less frequently — about one-third as often as they normally do — and many blinks performed during computer work are only partial lid closures, according to studies.

6. Take frequent breaks.

To reduce your risk for computer vision syndrome and neck, back and shoulder pain, take frequent breaks during your computer work day. Many workers take only two 15-minute breaks from their computer throughout their work day. According to a recent NIOSH study, discomfort and eye strain were significantly reduced when computer workers took four additional five-minute “mini-breaks” throughout their work day

7. Consider computer eyewear.

For the greatest comfort at your computer, you might benefit from having your eye care professional modify your eyeglasses prescription to create customized computer glasses. This is especially true if you normally wear contact lenses, which may become dry and uncomfortable during sustained computer work. Computer glasses also are a good choice if you wear bifocals or progressive lenses, because these lenses generally are not optimal for the distance to your computer screen.