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Computer Vision Syndrome: A Growing Concern

Posted on: March 15th, 2024 by Our Team

Computer Vision Syndrome is a relatively new diagnosis referring to eye and vision-related problems resulting from extended computer, cell phone, tablet and e-reader use.  Many people are complaining of eye discomfort and vision problems when viewing digital screens for prolonged periods.  These devices are known to release blue light which can reach the Retina, i.e., the inner lining of the back of the eye.  Extended use has shown that blue light can damage light sensitive cells in the retina.

Common Symptoms

Symptoms often associated with eyestrain resulting from extended digital exposure include:

  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry eyes
  • Neck and shoulder pain

How is a Diagnosis Made?

A diagnosis can be made during a comprehensive eye exam with an Ophthalmologist.  A comprehensive history will be obtained considering a history of symptoms, likely environmental factors that can exacerbate the condition and an overall understanding of the amount of digital device usage.  Data such as visual acuity, refraction, binocularity, and accommodation can be measured to ascertain severity of the diagnosis.

Potential Causes for these Symptoms

  • Poor lighting
  • Glare on a digital screen
  • Improper viewing distances
  • Poor seating posture
  • Uncorrected vision problems
  • Some combination of these factors

Measures or Steps to Minimize this Condition

  • Adequate lighting
  • Good posture
  • Timely visual breaks
  • Appropriate prescription for glasses and lens design for computer distance
  • Frequent blinking
  • Anti-glare screens
  • Treatment for underlying dry eye disease

What Constitutes Prolonged Use of Digital Devices?

Studies have suggested computer use of 4-8 hours per day and smartphones up to 4 hours a day fall into this category.  It should be recognized, however, there is no defined time measurement of prolonged use since every individual’s visual demand and ability to meet those demands is different.

Although there are no significant new symptoms or permanent consequences resulting from lack of treatment, persistent visual and ocular discomfort can often lead to decreased productivity in work and school activities.

Can the Eyes be Trained for Longer Use of Digital Devices?

Tips for reducing symptoms associated with computer vision syndrome include blinking frequently. Lubricating eyes with fresh tears during blinking can be soothing when staring for extended periods at digital screens since it can dry out the eyes. It is also recommended to take visual breaks using the 20-20-20 rules. This refers to looking in the distance at 20 feet away for 20 seconds at intervals of 20 minutes when doing work that is nearby.

There is a misconception that it is just office-workers who primarily suffer from this condition, but it is possible to develop computer vision syndrome at any age since the origin of the symptoms is from prolonged digital device use.  In fact, since Covid, there has been a significant increase in digital device use in adolescents and college students who had to adapt to remote learning.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, we recommend scheduling a comprehensive eye with our Ophthalmologists.

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