Blogging and Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) AKA Digital Eye Strain

eyeViewing a computer screen is hard work for your eyes. According to Screens, Phones, Tablets and More: Keeping Your Eyes Safe in a Digital Age, PDF a report based on a recent survey by The Vision Council, nearly 70 percent of American adults experience digital eye strain while using their electronic devices.  If you spend more than two hours a day in front of your computer then you are at increased risk of Computer Vision Syndrome AKA Digital Eye Strain.

Computer Vision Syndrome AKA Digital Eye Strain Concern

Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) AKA Digital Eye Strain Digital is a product of our techno-age lifestyle.

  • 34% of us are in professions requiring prolonged use of digital devices;
  • 30% are spending at least six hours a day using digital devices;
  • and 20% are spending 10 -12 hours a day working on a digital device.

A recent Good Technology survey revealed smartphone use has meant many workers are putting in as much as a full day of unpaid overtime each week multitasking – answering emails at the dinner table, on family outings and even from bed.

Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) AKA Digital Eye Strain is an array of eye and vision problems related to prolonged computer use. Today, Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) AKA Digital Eye Strain is the most common computer-related repetitive strain injury, surpassing both carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis.

The most common symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) AKA Digital Eye Strain are tiredness, sore eyes, eye strain, dry eyes, red eyes, burning in eyes, pain in and around the eyes, difficulties in focusing, excessive tearing, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, double vision, headaches, fatigue, headaches, neck, shoulder and back stiffness and pain. These symptoms can be eliminated or reduced by assuming the correct posture and changing your digital working habits. — The Effects of Computer Use on Eye Health and Vision PDF

High Risk for Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) AKA Digital Eye Strain

screensWhen it comes to Digital Eye Strain, document use is the highest risk category of screen use because of the way type is depicted on a digital screen.  The fuzzy edges to the type is one of the main causes of Computer Vision Syndrome AKA Digital Eye Strain. Type on digital devices and computer monitors is comprised of tiny pixels.  Each pixel is brightest in the center, with the brightness decreasing toward the outer edges and viewing them is different from reading a printed page:

  •  letters and shapes are not sharply defined;
  • the level of contrast of the letters to the background is reduced;
  • viewing distances and angles increase eye focusing and eye movement requirements;
  • glare and reflections make viewing difficult.

Preventing Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) AKA Digital Eye Strain

eye exam1. Get regular eye exams

Resist the temptation to buy over-the-counter reading glasses as even small inaccuracies in prescription lenses can contribute to computer vision problems. Instead have your eyes comprehensively tested and if required get eyeglasses specifically prescribed for you. For maximum viewing comfort, the lenses of your computer glasses should include anti-reflective coating and may also be tinted to reduce glare.

Eye exam frequency recommendations for people at low risk:

  • Teens to Age 30: Every 2 years if you have problems with your vision
  • Adults 30 to 50: Every 2 years (if you have good vision start exams at 40)
  • Adults Over 50: Every 2 years
  • Frequency for people at high risk (i.e. Having diabetes or high blood pressure or a family history of glaucoma)
  • Teens to Age 30: At least once a year
  • Adults 30 to 50: About once a year

2. Use Matte Finish LCD monitors

LCD monitors are thin, flat panels capable of displaying text, graphics, and videos. A liquid crystal display (LCD) uses the light modulating properties of liquid crystals that do not emit light directly. Monitors with a matte finish are easier on the eyes than those with glossy screens.

3. Proper lighting is paramount

Reduce room lighting and eliminate glare from windows and from lamps and room lighting on your screen. (Incandescent light produces less strain than fluorescent.)

4. Position your monitor, body  and source documents properly

Computer Workstation Variables
Computer Workstation Variables (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Center the monitor directly in front of you at an arm’s length away from you, so your body is in a neutral position, not leaning forward.
  • The closer your eyes are to the object you are looking at  the harder they have to work so maintain your arm’s length distance while working.
  • Position the monitor at a comfortable eye level about 2″ to 3″ below the top of the monitor casing. If you wear bifocals or progressive lens make sure that you sit back in your chair to view the screen and position the monitor a little lower if required.
  • Position source documents directly in front of you, between the monitor and the keyboard, using an in-line copy stand. Computing Health and Safety

ipad tips5. Follow the 20/20/20 rule

Read for shorter periods. Blink frequently while working and look away from your screen periodically to prevent squinting and eye muscle fatigue.  For every 20 minutes of using the device, take a 20-second eye break and look at something beyond 20 feet. There are free software programs that can remind you to take your breaks like the Windows utility called Eye Defender. And, there’s more that one an app for that too.

6 tips to prevent neck, shoulder pain when using an iPad or computer, from the Harvard Health Letter.

6. Limit electronic device use

It’s likely that your eyes are working hard 56 hours a week staring at your computer screen, or at the road behind the steering wheel, or in front of your high-def TV.  Note that research proves long hours at work kill profits, productivity and employees. Consistently working more than 40 hours weekly renders you unproductive and exhausted.  Be aware of how long you are using digital devices and limit the strain on your eyes. The preventive approach to reducing the risk of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) AKA Digital Eye Strain incorporates limiting electronic device use and taking alternate task breaks throughout the workday.

7. Exercise your eyes

namasteTake a few minutes each day to give your eyes the kind of work out they need.  When doing eye exercises keep your eyes open and don’t move your head, unless the instructions say otherwise. Your body must be motionless; nothing must move except the eyes. See my Yoga Exercises for Improving Eyesight and Tips and Exercises for Improving Eyesight

8. Live a healthy life

healthylife

The long-term use of computers has been linked to a range of potential health problems, or “computing related disorders” (CRDs). Researchers have linked sitting for lengthy periods with obesity and metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions that includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. — What are the risks of sitting too much?

Research shows links between prolonged sitting to increased risk for developing life threatening health conditions including heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and a high risk for blood clots in the legs related to excessive computer use, which is becoming known as “e-thrombosis”.

For your vision health and your over-all health it’s important to eat a healthy diet, limit electronic device use, get plenty of exercise (outdoors preferred), and get a good night’s sleep every night.

Discussion

Signs and symptoms that you may be developing Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) AKA Digital Eye Strain include:

  • losing your place while reading
  • avoiding close work
  • holding reading documents closer than usual
  • turning or tilting your head to use one eye only
  • rubbing your eyes
  • headaches
  • exhaustion

1. Are you experiencing symptoms that indicate you may be developing Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) AKA Digital Eye Strain?

2. How much time do you spend using digital devices on a daily basis?

3. Are you concerned about the health effects of your  digital device use?

55 thoughts on “Blogging and Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) AKA Digital Eye Strain

  1. Thank you for posting that interview with Dr. Thompson. I recently got my vision test done; the optometrist suggested wearing glasses when I told her my age. Although I don’t have a problem with reading, I thought I was straining my eyes.

    Now I feel relieved to hear the doctor say that we don’t necessarily have to use reading glasses just because of being over 40, but it depends on whether we can read with ease or not.

    1. Hi Ree,
      Many people simply purchase over the counter reading glasses without getting a proper eye exam. I’m glad to hear that you did get the exam. Best wishes for continued good eye sight.

  2. Very useful tips indeed.
    It is not blogging or computer, alone which creates trouble. I had been a avid reader or books, as part of my reasearch, to write books, for about a decade. It is over three years, I left that routine. My eyesight improved by 1.5. I think we need to balance the use of every part of this body. It is fragile. Too much stress on any single activity lands this body into trouble. I try to remember that.

    1. Hello Sandeep,
      Your words are very wise words. The body is fragile and we all ought to aim for balance. I have also been a voriacious reader and a contracted writer. In other words, for many years I stressed my eyes and frequently suffered from eye strain. It’s good to know that your eyesight did improve when you changed your practices. My eyesight is slowly improving now that I have disciplined myself not to overtax them as I did in the past.

      1. In our blind ambition, health is the first casualty and family is the next. The earlier we wake up, the better it is. BTW I use rose water, some time when feel that eyes are stressed.
        Any way all the best for your health.

        1. Hi Sandeep,
          That’s very true. Thanks for the rosewater tip. I like to use rose-hip tea when my eyes are stressed. What’s most effective is simply rest. May you be well and happy too.

  3. Hi Mark,
    Yes they sure do. No sooner had I published this post than I received this newsletter.

    The Aging Eye is written specifically for adults over 50. If you are one, you are increasingly at risk for one of four disorders that pose a threat to vision as you grow older: cataract, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy.

  4. I get a lot of eyestrain though not just from the computer monitor. I find sunlight very difficult to take (have to wear a wide-brimmed hat, sometimes indoors too – my husband regards my outdoor hat now as my ‘washing up hat’ because the kitchen sink faces west!) and often have to close my curtains to it. But the eye strain I get from the computer is helped by my doing one of the things Ron does and that is I turn the monitor brightness right down. In fact I paint with it right down, too, which is why when people comment on how bright my paintings are I am often surprised! I forget how high other people have their monitor brightness.

    I recently changed to the ‘clear type’ or whatever it’s called and I can’t say I like it. I’ve not really liked looking at fonts on LCD (orTFT) monitors as to me the screen looks like a fine mesh – I think I can actually see the individual pixels, my brain doesn’t seem to know not to see them!

    I badly need an eye test, have to find a new optician though – last one I went to was useless. (A chain – rarely a good idea).

    1. Hi Val,
      I’m so sorry I failed to answer this comment. I can’t explain what happened. I assume I approved it while working and it fell through the cracks. These days I don’t have the time to respond until the weekend as days at work are so hectic.

      Your artwork is bright but like you I have my monitor brightness turned down to decrease eye strain. Thank GAWD I can’t see the pixels or at least if I can I’m not aware of it.

      It sounds like you a even more sensitive to light than I am and I do encourage you to find a good eye doctor. I’m glad my hubby already had one because when I realized I needed an eye check-up I knew I could count on getting good care from his eye doctor.

  5. I’ve been using computers for years. Luckily I was in charge of Ergonomics and created a manual for our entire organization many years ago. I have avoided all of the problems by following these same recommendations you have in your post. There is one other symptom of using a computer for too long a period of time that I suffer from. It’s odd and I don’t know how many other people have this same thing. I hardly ever blink. This was never pointed out to me early on and unfortunately, now I have to consciously tell myself to blink. Keep sharing these tips. Your eyes are very important.

    1. Hi Tracy,
      It’s so good to hear that you are on top of all this. Normal blink rate in human is 16-20 per minute. When this blink rate gets reduced to 6-8 blinks/minute, it results in dry eyes. Studies show that the blink reflex is reduced when doing computer work and the longer the eye remains open between blinks, the more the front surface of the eye (cornea) is subject to dehydration ie. dry eyes. Dry eyes lead to an inability to properly focus on near objects. So yours is a very important tip which will go a long way toward reducing eyestrain — make sure you blink.

  6. Wow, I was reading through some of your posts and stumbled upon this one. Sometimes my eyes hurt so much that it travels down my face. It is frustrating that everything I love to do requires looking at a screen. I work all day on a computer and then my favorite past-times involve electronics. I find myself towards the end of the day shutting one eye. I have often wondered if others experience the intense pain and after reading this post it looks like the answer is a resounding yes!

    1. I have also had that kind of pain when I have spent too many hours in front of a monitor and have not been minding my posture. Eventually one has to admit to oneself that what we are doing too much of is a form of self-abuse. Once we can do that we can move into the mode of exercising common sense and taking care of our vision and our over-all health. Eye strain is only one of many conditions computers users develop.

  7. Wow! Very useful and full of information. I heard for the first time of this syndrome! I used computer for 6-8 hours a day some time ago. I was much worried about my eye sight. Now I got I lack all those precautions you mentioned above. I’ll share this to many social medias. Does using decent and small fonts make some difference? I prefer and use black and white vision cell phone. This also reduces side effects on your eyes.

    1. Hi there,
      I’m happy to hear you are concerned about preserving your eyesight. It’s so easy to take for granted. Font size can be easily changed using keyboard shortcuts on any site we visit and I automatically re-size fonts whenever I need to. http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com/2010/01/19/how-to-change-font-text-size-in-your-browser/ I think resizing fonts so they are comfortable to read is a good precaution to take. I’m sorry but I can’t comment on black and white vision cell phones because I don’t own one.

        1. You’re welcome re: the link.
          re: iPhones this is interesting
          How An iPhone Can Make Your Eyesight Better
          http://www.forbes.com/sites/marcwebertobias/2012/01/02/how-an-iphone-can-make-your-eyesight-better/
          VANCE THOMPSON MD AND MARC WEBER TOBIAS.mpg

          Apps for eye exams:
          https://itunes.apple.com/app/id402942540
          https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/eyetest-control-your-visual/id405950873?mt=8

          Vision Test App
          The Vision Test is Essilors new free App designed for both the iPhone and iPod Touch, that requires you to complete a basic vision test that will highlight if you need to visit an Optician for an eye exam

          1. Valued Customer!
            This website access is restricted either due to instructions of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority

            Thanks for the link BTW.

          2. Valued Customer!
            This website access is restricted either due to instructions of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority

            Thanks for the link BTW!

  8. Everyone,
    I’m busy answering support forum questions and wanted you to know I do treasure your comments and will respond to them as soon as I can.
    P.S. I did a lot of work on this post and I’m disappointed no one has shared it anywhere. :(

  9. tt – I really appreciate this piece. I’ve been suffering for a number of months and even went to see my eye doctor because of it. I told her how many hours I spend online and working on my laptop. She didn’t seem to think there was any reason my eyes should feel strained all the time. I should have saved the $80 and written to you! Thanks, especially, for including the link to your yoga exercises for eyes.
    Susan

    1. Hi Susan,
      Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) AKA Digital Eye Strain is a temporary condition. Stop working on a a computer for lengthy periods of time and it disappears. That leads some medical people to minimize it. Not all do though. I went to my medical doctor for headaches before I went to an ophthalmologist. My medical doctor believes what underlies developing it is an addiction and says no addiction is easy to get rid of. He’s right.

  10. This is all great advice that I’ve chosen to ignore most of my working life ;)

    It’s like smoking. Everybody knows it’s bad for you, but that doesn’t really stop people because it’s what they’re used to. Even more than being addicted, it’s a familiarity with a certain way of doing things that’s near impossible to change.

    I mean, I’ve written on my laptop while on my bed, lights off and hunched over, and by morning wonder why I feel like I’ve been stabbed with a fork in the spine and cant see a damn thing.

    I’ve been programming since I was a teenager so years of staring at multiple monitors (since before LCDs became common) with very small text for hours on end, sometimes 80 hours a week, has taken their toll.

    These days, I think I would have been better off being a carpenter.

    1. Devoting 80 hours a week doing anything digital is crazy. We humans can become easily cyber-addicted that we slide into self-abuse without even noticing it. Hopefully you have heard the wake up call. :)

  11. Some computer glasses also employ wraparound styling which helps to reduce air flow around the eyes that contributes to dry eyes. Wish they’d been around when I was working.

  12. tt– what is your opinion concerning OTC (saline solution) eye drops? I’ve read a few articles that mention them in regards to frequent computer use and good eye health practices (not to mention I’ve had dry eye myself after long sessions), so I was curious as to your thoughts.

    1. Eye drops and ointments can be broken down into two categories: over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops and prescription (Rx) eye drops. I have used both. I have used Bausch & Lomb Soothe Preservative Free Lubricant Eye Drops but currently I have prescription single dose eye drops for dryness. I don’t usually require eye drops but when I notice I’m not tearing I get the prescription filled.

      (Courtesy of the Mayo Clinic) There are two basic types of artificial tears:

      Eyedrops with preservatives. These artificial tears often come in multidose bottles and contain chemicals that discourage bacterial growth once the container is opened. The preservatives may irritate your eyes, especially if you have moderate or severe dry eyes.

      Preservative-free eyedrops. These artificial tears contain fewer additives and are generally recommended if you apply artificial tears more than four times a day. Preservative-free products may come in single-dose vials.

      Most eye drops contain preservatives that inhibit bacterial growth but some people are sensitive or even allergic to these preservatives. Many eye doctors suggest using preservative-free eye drops to avoid this problem. Most non-preserved eye drops come in unit dose tubes — once they’re opened, they should be used up or thrown away after one day to prevent bacterial growth.

    1. From time to time I can lay claim to neck and shoulder stiffness too. When that’s going on there’s not doubt about the source it’s too much time in front of the monitor. It sounds like you may need some rest and some physio. I hope you feel better soon.

  13. Hi tt,

    Not sure how much time I spend staring at my monitor, but I do know it’s a lot. Personally, I’m not aware of any problems, though I do have a matt-screen monitor (TFT I think, rather than LCD). Less of a pain that my laptop, which is a black mirror – absurd idea!

    I do think a break to allow your eyes to refocus, as often as you can, is vital – read for a while, or just have a coffee and stare out of the window. I’ve found that if I go out immediately after a couple of hours in front of my monitor, the world is out of focus beyond a few yards. It comes back after a while, but until it does it wouldn’t be safe to drive.

    It’s essential, if using Windows, to turn on Clear Type if using a flat-screen monitor. For me, at least, that eliminates the fuzzy text problem.

    Turning the brightness down is a good idea too, enough to take the glare out of the whites. When I used XP I had it set so that all whites were displayed as pale blue, which helped a lot, but that setting appears to be absent from Win 7.

    1. Hi Ron,
      I spend far too many hours in front of monitors for our business, my contracted work and also for blogging. I agree that breaks are really important and refocusing as you describe are vital to eye health and headache prevention.

      Thanks for the Windows tips. The are valuable. I used to have a Dell monitor that kept going for years. In fact it still operates well at a center I donated it too. It had excellent brightness and contrast controls and I used them to remove the glare and make whites less stark.

  14. Do your computer glasses have a yellow tint? I have eye strain from florescent lighting and some from computer monitors and I have heard that helped. I’m wondering if it works.

    1. Yes, my computer glasses are tinted light amber. I suffer from sensitivity to artificial light and hearing sensitivity as well. I can’t handle fluorescent lighting well at all. The flickering others don’t notice drives me crazy. I hear the humming of the ballast in fluorescent tube that others do not hear. I get hair standing up on my arms and headaches from fluorescent lighting. As a result I can’t abide being where fluorescent lighting is used for very long at all. When we are discussing mid-range and long range vision, I have over 20/20 vision without glasses and that means I don’t have to wear eyeglasses all the time. But if I’m in any place with fluorescent lighting I do wear my computer glasses.

      1. Yep, I think it’s the flickering that gets me too! I went to a writing conference in the spring where I was in fluorescent light 8 hours a day for 2 days and my eyesight didn’t recover for 3 months! Used to be that just staying out of fluorescent light for a couple of days was enough for my eyesight to recover. But I think part of the problem now is fluorescent is so much more common with the new laws. I wish there were more awareness of this problem; losing your eyesight is not a trivial matter. We just bought a bunch of high-watt incandescent bulbs because they’re going to be illegal to sell soon.

        1. I hear you. A few years ago I attended a workshop that was all under fluorescent lights and it took so much out of me. The recovery was about two weeks long and I decided never again. I had planned on attending a Feng Shui workshop last month but when I found out it was in a venue with florescent lights I decided not to go. It’s just not worth it. LED lighting doesn’t affect me negatively, only fluorescent lighting does.

      2. I hadn’t considered yellow-tinted lenses for eye strain– I was considering them for other health reasons. So much more the reason, I guess.

        1. Age 35 is the age where most computer users begin looking for eye relief but do keep in mind that is based on the fact that most of those users did not use a computer in childhood or adolescence. These days toddlers and even babies with eyes that have yet to mature are spending hours in front of monitors and TV’s so the age may change in the future.

          Age 45 seems to be when when most people realize we need reading glasses due to presbyopia. The elasticity of the lens slowly diminishes with age and causes difficulty focusing on nearby objects. I didn’t notice any appreciable difference in my eyesight until I was 55 and I didn’t go for over the counter reading glasses. I went directly to an optometrist because my husband, who has worn glasses since he was a kid told me I would be stupid if I bought over the counter ones.

          When I had my eye exam is when it was I discovered that I had “regular astigmatism” in my left eye. Going to a professional rather than to the pharmacy was a key one for me because wearing the wrong reading glasses can defeat your purpose. My neighbor bought over the counter computer glasses and 6 months later I met her in the optometrist’s office picking up her prescription computer glasses. She explained that her over the counter computer glasses made all her original symptoms eye strain, headaches, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, neck pain from straining to see and pain much worse.

          My thumbs are both up for prescription computer glasses as I find that they are really helpful. I started wearing them in 2008 and don’t hesitate recommending their use with one proviso. There’s a lot of advertising hype re: over the counter computer glasses — don’t go for them. We only get one pair of eyes and our eyesight is far too precious to risk being sucked in by any aggressive advertising for over the counter computer eyeglasses. Go to an optometrist and get comprehensive eye testing.

          That said, here’s a tip about frames. Prescription eyeglasses frames cost me $320. Well, thanks to another friend I have found out that Gunnars over the counter computer glasses which range between $80. and $200. can be made with your own prescription for an extra charge. I now have several friends who paid extra and got prescription lens in Gunnars, so I may go that route when I need new frames. There’s a 30 day Gunnar Optiks return policy.

          GUNNAR – Advanced Computer Eyewear

          1. I don’t wear corrective lenses myself (don’t need to… yet), but my wife does and my daughter may need to wear them soon as well. I’ll pass this information on to them.

  15. I have had the full works from staring at the screen. I’ve seen psychedelic zig-zags and a kind of bending of what’s in front of me. It’s difficult to describe but if you have seen one of those films where people push on a mirror and it bends and they can step through it – well, I’ve had the bending part.

    1. Hi David,
      I too have experienced the whole 9 yards ie. every digital eye strain symptom listed. I’ve been doing eye exercises since 2008 when I suffered a serious concussion and optic nerve damage. That’s when I first got eyeglasses specifically prescribed for computer work. Since then I’ve purchased a good computer chair and LCD matte finish monitor. I do take breaks and I’ve reduced the number of hours I spend in front of my computer. I’ll be making an appointment for an eye exam next week. I believe I should be getting one every year but it’s been 2 years since my last eye exam.

      I think my readers will tell by the amount of research I did on this subject that I am very concerned about my own vision health. These days kids are using electronic devices from age 3 onwards. In contrast I wasn’t in front of a monitor until I was in my twenties. I’m wondering how many young people are focused on prevention of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) AKA Digital Eye Strain.

        1. I fell off the deck railing I jumped up on without thinking while attempting to save a night-hawk who was heading for an open downspout. We were cleaning gutters and the cap was off. She would have drowned in the cistern. She lived, bit the hell out of my hand (medial nerve) and I went over the railing and smashed my head on a stoneware planter.

          P.S. That was not the first concussion I have suffered.

        2. Thanks for the sympathy. Never underestimate the long term effects of concussions. It’s really hard to cope with headaches, mood swings, tiredness, sensitivity to light and noise and memory problems on a daily basis. Spending too much time in front of a monitor triggers all of those so I’m faced with a balancing act every day. Some days I simply can’t answer blog comments. I have to log-out and rest my eyes.

    2. David – those zig-zags and other visual effects are symptoms of a migraine. It’s possible to get them without head pain, too.

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