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Computer Vision Syndrome - causes and prevention strategy

Computer Vision Syndrome is a variety of symptoms resulting from focusing the eyes on a computer display for protracted, uninterrupted periods of time. Symptoms include eyestrain and backache. Here are some tips on how to safeguard your visual health. How to keep our eyes healthy in the workplace   2010-05-16

 How to keep our eyes healthy in the workplace

What is Computer Vision Syndrome?

Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is a term used to describe a collection of vision-related symptoms experienced by people who use a computer for more than two hours a day and who do not take the appropriate precautions to avoid the damage, which may be caused by their exposure.

Almost 10 million people annually complain about symptoms predominantly associated with computer use. Many of these problems are thought to relate directly related to the computer work environment.

The symptoms, which were identified by optometrists in a nationwide survey, include (but are not limited to):

Temporary short sightedness, eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, dry, or irritated eyes, neck and back aches, increased light sensitivity, double vision and afterimages.

The survey also identified four environmental factors that have the most impact on whether or not a computer-user will develop CVS. These factors are:-

  • The arrangement of the office

  • Quality of lighting

  • Screen resolution

  • Screen Glare

What can be done to minimise this problem?

Fortunately, once this collection of symptoms is recognised, it is fairly easy to correct.

Initially, anyone who suspects they may be suffering from CVS or who works at a computer for several hours a day, should have a thorough eye examination. If you use a computer for work, you may be entitled to a free eye test, paid for by your employer. Under European legislation, employees who use visual display units (VDU’s), are entitled to an eye test when they begin using a VDU and then at regular intervals throughout their employment. Eye problems correctable by prescription lenses, which are thought to be as a result of using a computer mean that the employer must pay for a basic pair of glasses.

The most basic steps for looking after your eyesight are as follows:-

Take regular breaks from the screen. You should rest your eyes every 20 minutes or so, by looking away from the screen.

Adjust your monitor settings and position so that they are comfortable for you. Try using a larger font size or using the zoom option on the page layout to make it easier on your eyes.

Adjust the screen brightness so that it is comfortable to look at.

Contrast should be adequate to produce sharply defined images on the screen.

Keep the screen clean.

Check with you Health and Safety Manager as to whether you have the screen positioned correctly. The screen should be between 33cm and 59 cm from your eyes and the centre of the monitor should be 10 below your eye level.

Check the lighting around the computer. There should be no bright reflections on the screen. Any windows need to be at right angles to the screen – not behind or in front of it. Using an anti-glare screen which is fixed on to your monitor is a good idea to reduce any glare and will block reflections.

Make sure there is sufficient light in the office to read paper documents without straining.

Any hard copy which is to be typed in, should be located about the same distance from you, as the screen.

Remember to blink at regular intervals. Strange as it may sound, when you are concentrating for a long time at the computer, your blink rate slows and may mean you could develop dry eyes which may be relieved by using eye drops. Ask your optician for advice if you think you have this problem. People who wear contact lenses are more prone to dry eyes.

Finally, if you think there are problems within your working environment over which you have no control, make sure your employer is aware of them. This way, the problems can be addressed before they become really troublesome.