Over the past few years the workplace environment has drastically changed, with an increase in remote and work-from-home arrangements becoming a new normal. Because of this, people are spending even more time in front of screens while having minimal breaks or periods of rest. March is Workplace Eye Wellness Month, which offers the opportunity to shed light on eye health in the workplace and how computer vision syndrome (CVS), also known as digital eye strain, is becoming a more prevalent issue.
What is Computer Vision Syndrome?
According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), computer vision syndrome (CVS) describes a group of eye and vision related problems that result from prolonged computer, tablet, e-reader, and cell phone use. Viewing a computer or digital screen often makes the eye work harder, resulting in vision-related symptoms. In most cases, symptoms of CVS occur because the visual demands of the task exceed the visual abilities of the individual to comfortably perform them.
Since the average American worker spends approximately seven hours a day on the computer while working in an office or at home, it is not surprising the CVS is becoming a more widespread issue.
What are Symptoms of CVS?
The most common symptoms of CVS include:
- Eye strain
- Blurred vision
- Dry eyes
- Neck and shoulder pain
Symptoms may be caused by the following, among other contributors:
- Poor lighting
- Glare on a digital screen
- Poor seating and posture
- Uncorrected vision problems
Often, the visual problems experienced as a result of viewing digital devices are temporary and will decline after stopping viewing of the screens. For some people though, longer-term impacts can include reduced visual abilities, such as blurred vision.
Are There Treatment and Prevention Options for Digital Eye Strain?
Yes! Fortunately, there are many measures that can be taken to optimize working spaces to minimize or avoid digital eye strain.
- Location of the computer screen
It is often most comfortable to view a computer screen at a downward angle. Experts recommend the screen be 15 to 20 degrees below eye level (about 4 to 5 inches) and 20 to 28 inches from the eyes.
Position the computer screen to avoid a glare, especially from overhead lights or windows. Use blinds or drapes to block glare from windows, and replace any light bulbs, particularly those in desk lamps, to a lower wattage bulb.
- Taking breaks
Experts recommend the 20-20-20 rule as a good practice when working in front of screens. The 20-20-20 rule is the process of looking 20 feet away every 20 minutes for 20 seconds. This can be as simple as looking outside the window or looking down at the ground as a break from the screen.
- Using artificial tears
Eye drops are a great option to keep eyes moist and relieve any discomfort that might arise from dry eye. We recommend consulting with your ophthalmologist, or asking at your next comprehensive eye exam, for their opinion as to whether artificial tears is a solution that is best for you.
- Using computer eyeglasses
Computer eyeglasses, a type of prescription glasses, allow you to focus your eyes specifically at computer screen distance. Some computer glasses also have multifocal lenses to allow you to seamlessly shift focus between close, intermediate, and far distances. Keep in mind that computer eyeglasses are intended for reducing eye strain, and they are not the same as “blue light blocking” glasses which are actually not a recommended treatment option.
For many, being able to work in the location of their choice offers a new freedom and flexibility in the workplace. During Workplace Eye Wellness Month, we celebrate all of the exciting opportunities that new work options offer. At the same time, we’re reminding workers that prolonged screen time can result in digital eye strain, and the condition can make work that much more challenging and uncomfortable.