Modern day life typically comes with a lot of screen time. This can be intentional, like using your smartphone, tablet or watching TV for entertainment. At the same time, many occupations also require workers to stare at computer screens or other digital displays.
Throughout the course of a single day, your eyes are likely experiencing a significant amount of strain. Day after day this common eye strain can start to pile up and affect your vision as well as cause your eyes to feel tired, irritated, or look red.
As time goes on, chronic eye strain can gradually start to develop into a condition more commonly referred to as Computer Vision Syndrome.
Understanding Symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome
On a clinical level, there is some debate over whether or not Computer Vision Syndrome can indeed cause permanent damage. However, most agree that the more common symptoms can be very problematic. In some cases, they can even affect a patient’s quality of life as well as their ability to comfortably perform their job.
Common symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome often include things like:
- Headaches – especially around the eyes or feeling like a headache is behind the eyes.
- Temporary blurred vision – which might also be associated with a delay in your ability to change focus from near to far and back again.
- Neck stiffness – is also a common complaint related to viewing angle increasing the eye strain.
- Chronic shoulder or upper back pain – may also occur when improper sitting posture at your desk contributes to eye strain.
- Work-related errors – something as simple as typos from tired eyes or the inability to focus due to a headache can affect work performance.
- Chronic dry eye – while it can be related to other medical and eye health problems, chronic dry eye can also happen, when you stare at a computer screen for a prolonged period of time, with limited blinking.
Lifestyle Factors Can Also Contribute To Computer Vision Syndrome
Many people struggling with chronic eye strain at their work, come home to find even more screens waiting for them. This can come in many forms, some obvious, and others not so obvious.
Lifestyle factors that can contribute to chronic eye strains or Computer Vision Syndrome can include:
- Smartphones, e-readers, and hand-held tablets – the display screens and the size of text they use often require the eyes to focus intensely.
- Poor lighting – the light conditions at home and work can also cause eye strain and eventually lead to struggles in the ability to change focus.
- Poor posture – whether you are at home or in the office, how you sit in front of your computer screen, the distance, and viewing angle can all affect your vision, which can easily contribute to chronic eye strain.
- Not taking periodic breaks – Taking a few moments every 20 to 30 minutes to change your focus from near to far, moving the eyes, and even performing some basic eye exercises can help ease the eye strain that is directly associated with Computer Vision Syndrome.
- Existing vision and eye health problems – eye strain can affect many different aspects of your eyes. When this happens, it can exacerbate the symptoms of other existing eye health conditions. Symptoms can vary depending on the type and severity of the problem. A routine eye exam can often catch these problems to help correct the issue before it worsens further.
Tips for Dealing With Chronic Eye Strain Or Chronic Vision Syndrome
On its own chronic eye strain isn’t necessarily something that you need professional treatment for. Early on you may find significant symptom relief or a decrease in discomfort by adopting some simple changes in your work habits and lifestyle choices. This might include:
Being Conscious About Your Posture
While you might not think it at first, your posture when using your desktop computer or laptop can significantly affect your eyes. This includes the fine muscles that help move your eyes efficiently, as well as your eye’s ability to change focus.
Ideally, you want to position your computer or laptop so that the monitor is directly in front of you. It should be placed between 18 to 24 inches from your eyes and the top portion of the screen should be roughly at your eye level.
Keyboard position is also a factor. You want to position it so that it is directly in front of the monitor. If you have reference materials, you should try to place them at the same level, and distance as well as near the same angle.
Try To Minimize Glare
Glare from alternative light sources and even bright sunlight being reflected off objects can contribute to eye strain. Whenever possible, you should try to minimize glare by positioning your monitor at a 90-degree angle from the source of the glare.
Give Your Eyes a Break
Constantly staring at any screen, whether it is your computer monitor, a tablet, or even a TV screen, essentially forces your eyes to lock their focus as well as the stabilizing muscles. Taking a few moments every 20 or 30 minutes to look around the room, change focus from near to far, or simply to rest your eyes, can help minimize eye strain.
Be Mindful Of Your Blinking
I know it might sound strange, considering that blinking is somewhat of involuntary action. Yet many people with eye strain issues, also complain of problems with chronic dry eye. If you struggle to make a conscious effort to blink more often, you might want to consider keeping some quality eye drops with you to help keep your eyes moist.
When To Seek Professional Treatment
Adopting changes in your work and lifestyle viewing habits should go a long way toward relieving symptoms of chronic eye strain or Computer Vision Syndrome. However, there are times when eye strain issues can exacerbate other eye conditions, which may or may not be diagnosed.
If your symptoms persist after a week or two of making concerted changes in your habits, you should schedule a routine eye exam, to make sure that everything is right with your eyes. In many of these cases, catching the underlying eye disease will go a long way toward improving your symptoms, as well as preserving your sight.