June 2010

The Effects Of Technology On Vision

Author: Dr. Janvier

Let’s look at this scenario: Most of us work eight hours a day. During this time, many of us spend five to six of those hours staring at a computer screen. Now we get home, and what do we do? Check our e-mails, pay bills online, shop online, and go to Facebook (we’ve got to find out what our friends and enemies are doing). Then we go to the smart phones (Blackberry, iPhone, iPod, etc.) to check for text messages, find out how to get to grandma’s house, or check out the new restaurant menu around the corner. Now let’s add a few more hours at the video games (X-box, Wii, Playstation, etc). So now we have been staring at some type of computer or hand-held visual screen for 10-12 hours. Wow!

The point here is that we spend a great deal of time on any given day staring at some type of visual screen, whether for work or entertainment. This not only applies to working adults, but also the children: computers at school, smart phones in hand, and hours on the entertainment screen of choice. The large computer screens are bad enough, but now we are also using much smaller visual screens with smaller displays, and not well-formed lettering (fewer pixels). This is placing even greater strain on the eyes and visual system. The important question is: How does all of this affect our eyes, and is it detrimental to the visual system?

Some studies indicate that as many as 100 million people are affected by eye strain and focusing problems from staring at computers or other hand-held visual screens. Known as VFS (Visual Fatigue Syndrome) or CVS (Computer Vision Syndrome), this constant staring causes eye strain and fatigue due to our eye having to focus on these screens for extended periods of time. Symptoms from VFS or CVS can include:
• Headaches
• Eye Strain
• Fatigue
• Burning, Itchy, Watery Eyes
• Loss Of Focus
• Blurred Distance (Can Occur At Near Or Distance)
• Double Vision
• Neck/Shoulder Pain
• Sensitivity To Lights (Photophobia)

The work place is not going to give up computers, and we are not going to abandon our Blackberries, smart phones and other techno-gadgets (how would we survive?). So, what can we do?

LET’S EASE THE STRAIN A LITTLE:
Let’s stop using computers/hand held devices! Buy a kayak and look out across the water. How relaxing to the visual system (and the mind). Boy that was easy, but unfortunately not realistic. So, what else can we do?

REST: Look off (20 feet away) for 20 seconds every 30 minutes, and make yourself blink repeatedly for 10 seconds (great for eye moisture, especially if you’re wearing contact lenses); and actually take a 10 minute break away from “your station” every two or three hours. (Please do not read on your break.)

ADD DISTANCE: keep the visual screen as far away from the eye as possible, the closer the screens are to the eye (may make reading easier) the more strain on the visual system. The closer you view an object, the more you eye has to focus. Whenever possible, increase the font size and adjust the screen resolution and contrast.

PROVIDE PROPER LIGHTING / SCREEN CARE: Distant or frontal light can cause a great deal more glare off screens, which makes focusing even more challenging. If possible, ambient overhead lighting provides good results. And remember to clean your screen once in a while!

LOOK DOWN: It is easier on the eyes to focus on reading material below eye level. Keep computer screens and hand held devices so that they are viewed below eye level. Optimally, the computer screen should be 15 to 20 degrees below eye level (4-5 inches) and at least 26 inches from your eyes.

KEEP EYES LUBRICATED: Keep those lids blinking, and use over-the-counter moistening eye drops. This is especially important if you wear contact lenses. One to two drops per eye of moistening/lubricating solution for every two to three hours is a good rule of thumb.

GET A CHECK-UP: When was the last time you had your eyes examined to see if your glasses/contact lenses are still adequate? Or maybe you should be wearing glasses for those tasks and you are not. Or, maybe you’re wearing the wrong type of glasses. Bifocal and progressive lenses are not always the best remedy for long-time computer use.

DISCONNECTt: Turn the screens and hand-held stuff off! Go outside and look off at the distance. Mother Nature is pleasant on the eyes and the mind.

Will you be able to alleviate all these visual fatigue symptoms (VFS/CVS) by following these steps? Probably not, but it will definitely help! If you try all this and are still “seeing” no improvement in visual fatigue symptoms, try the kayak.

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