Discussion on how computer use affects the eyes and your vision

Combating Digital Vision Syndrome

Digital Vision Syndrome has been a popular topic in the last few years as more of our time is dedicated to viewing our many digital devices.  After long periods of use, many individuals, including myself, experience discomfort and visual problems.  

What kind of symptoms are we talking about? Eyestrain, headaches, and dry eyes to name a few of the major offenders.   The causes of Digital Vision Syndrome, however, are a little more difficult to pinpoint.  It is typically a combination of various factors such as: poor lighting, posture, blue light emitted, uncorrected visual problems.  

We take several steps to combat Digital Vision syndrome. Our first line of defense focuses on how we view our devices.  Basic ergonomics such as positioning yourself at a computer screen so that the screen is 20 to 28 inches away from your eyes and between 15 to 20 degrees below eye level. Additionally, proper room lighting is imperative.  Also make sure to take breaks by spending at least 20 seconds to look at something 20 feet away every 20 minutes of computer use.  This is called the 20-20-20 rule.  

The second line of defense focuses on blocking the harmful blue light emitted from these devices. Research has shown that certain blue light has been linked to sleep issues and has a possible link to certain eye diseases.  Special lens coatings can be added to your glasses to reduce this light. 

The third line of defense focuses on reducing the amount of eyestrain by reducing the amount of focusing work your eyes do when looking something near and the amount of tension on the eye muscles.  The newest technology in this category has been the Neurolens® released by eyeBrain Medical.  Using the Neurolens Measurement Device, eye alignment is accurately measured for all distances.  Any eye misalignment can cause the visual system to work harder which can lead individuals to experience the symptoms of Digital Vision Syndrome.  The Neurolens® is a special lens design that corrects eye misalignment. By reducing the demand on the visual system symptoms of Digital Vision Syndrome can be greatly reduced or eliminated.  

Blog contribution by Jonathan Kiriboon, Optometry Intern, College of Optometry, Western University of Health Sciences.


What are computer glasses?

Do Computer Glasses Help Reduce Symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome?

Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is a condition where individuals who uses computers for a long period of time or in an unfavorable environment generate symptoms that affect their vision. The distance the eyes focuses when using a computer is different compared to when a person reads or looks at a far distance. When the eyes have to focus for a long time at the computer working distance, CVS symptoms may develop because the visual demands are greater than what the eyes can handle. Symptoms include eyestrain, headaches, dry eyes, neck and shoulder pain, and blurred vision. Some conditions that can contribute to CVS are glare, lighting in the environment, sitting posture, and time spent on the computer. Visual conditions like near-sighted, far-sighted, or astigmatism can also contribute to the development of CVS.

One way to help reduce symptoms of CVS are computer glasses. Computer glasses are designed specifically to alleviate the symptoms of CVS by using different lens power, tints, or coatings. Some frames have smaller amounts of optical power to decrease the demand of accommodation (focusing), thus decreasing the amount of work the eyes must endure. Some designs like the ‘wrap-around’ are made to decrease the amount of air current traveling between the frames and the eyes. The goal of these prescriptions is to achieve maximum visual function and comfort while relieving CVS symptoms. According to a study done by Ohio State University College of Optometry, computer glasses showed an 80.7% decrease in symptoms for patients that were presbyopic.

Because computer glasses can help alleviate symptoms does everyone benefit? It depends on an individuals’ visual demands, occupation, eye health and overall comfort that results from using computer glasses.

Blog contribution by Vally Moua, Optometry Intern, College of Optometry ,Western University of Health Sciences

Does computer use damage the eyes?

A recent CNN article examines a question I get asked everyday. Does computer use damage my eyes?  The answer to this question will vary depending on how one defines the word damage. The quick answer is NO.  There has yet to be a case of permanent computer related eye injury. There are however a myriad of symptoms that can result from prolonged computer use.

There is a label that has been assigned to a group of such symptoms and it is comprised of headaches, blurred vision, tired and dry eyes. The American Optometric Association encompasses all of these under Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).  These irritating symptoms can decrease productivity and increase frustration in the workplace. Certainly we may say this is damaging. Decreased productivity is never good for business.

Damage control

When I examine a patient’s eyes, I am looking to uncover potential obstacles to comfortable vision.  This may include being farsighted or having astigmatism.  In other patients I uncover focusing deficiencies or eye muscle imbalance.  Left uncorrected, a patient may experience headaches or blurred vision, so it is important to correct these issues using glasses or contact lenses.  In some instances surgery may be appropriate.  Use of corrective lenses will relieve many symptoms brought on by prolonged staring at the computer.  By refocusing light, these lenses make the screen more clear and a patient can work more comfortably.

A complete eye health examination has yet to reveal permanent damage in one of my patient’s eyes.  I do find that besides blurred vision the most common complaint of computer users is dry eyes. These include superficial punctate keratitis or dry patches on the cornea and a decreased amount of tears in the eye. I attribute this partially to lower blink rates while using the computer.   Additionally many computer users work in highly air conditioned environments which can dry the eyes.

Damaging or not, using a computer for hours on end warrants careful examination of your eyes and the environment in which you work.