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.