Eyestrain at the Computer
What is Computer Eyestrain?
With millions of people using computers on a regular basis, many patients are experiencing eye problems associated with extended computer use. Computers do not hurt your eyes but they are definitely work for your eyes to do. Eyestrain, tired eyes, dry eyes, blurred vision, etc. can all be contributed to extended computer use.
Signs and Symptoms of Computer Eye Strain
Computer use can cause dry, red, irritated eyes from staring at the screen as reduced blink rates cause exposure problems for the surface of the eyes. Glare off the screen can cause squinting and fatigue of the eyelid muscles often resulting in frontal headaches. For some people this glare can even be a trigger for migraine headaches. “Computer Vision Syndrome” is a term (overdramatized) that has been coined by the eye industry to encompass all of these symptoms.
What Causes Computer Eye Strain?
Directly behind your pupil lies a small lens about the size a plain M & M. Small muscles (ciliary body) bend this lens to help us focus from distance to near. When looking in the distance, these muscles are relaxed but to see objects at near like a computer, the muscles must work to bend the lens and change its shape for near focus. Like any other muscle in your body, they can become overworked, tired, and strained. Also, these muscles can spasm for near vision causing the distance vision to be blurry for some time after computer use. Once again, these activities do not hurt the muscles.
How is Computer Eye Strain Diagnosed?
Computer eye strain is a “symptom based” diagnosis. If the patient has these symptoms while at the computer, then they have computer eyestrain, a.k.a Computer Vision Syndrome. An eye examination can determine if there are any other eye problems contributing to the computer eyestrain.
How is Computer Eye Strain Treated?
Fortunately, there are some very simple remedies for computer vision problems. First, every 30 minutes, look in the distance and let your eyes relax for 30 seconds while making a conscious effort to blink several times. A great idea is to set your cell phone alarm for regular intervals to remind you to take a break. Lubrication drops (not Visine) used 2-3 times per day can also help prevent dry eyes.
Proper lighting is very important to prevent glare off the computer screen. Always avoid natural sunlight from hitting the screen. Fluorescent lights give off lots of glaring light so try to use indirect “can lighting” with a soft, low wattage light bulbs. Glare screens for your computer and antiglare coatings on your glasses can also be effective in reducing glare.
For those of us past the age of 40 who are using multifocal lenses for presbyopia, sustained computer work can be even more challenging as head tilting while trying to look through your bifocals / progressive lenses can cause neck problems. A simply remedy for this problem is to raise your chair and lower your computer. If that’s not an option, often we prescribe computer glasses that can be very effective for reducing computer eyestrain even in patients who are not in the bifocal years. These glasses involve an adjusted prescription that focuses specifically for the screen allowing your eye muscles to relax. If your screen and keyboard are two different distances, a multifocal (progressive) lenses can be used to accommodate for both distances. Antiglare coating on your computer glasses is highly recommended.
What Steps Should I Take if I Think I Have Computer Eye Strain?
We recommend making an appointment to see Dr. Reinders for a full eye examination to determine if there are any other eye problems contributing to your computer eyestrain. He has 22 of years of experience treating patients with computer eyestrain and other related conditions. The sooner he can check your eyes, the better. All doctors agree that waiting and hoping it will get better is not a prescription for success.