Many of you have jobs that require you to work on the computer. These strenuous computer-intensive work conditions have given rise to what is known as Computer Vision Syndrome.
Dr Harish S Belvi, a practising ophthalmologist (eye specialist) based in Mumbai, says that this occurs “when there is a shortening of tear break up time. In other words, tears that form a defensive film over the eyes start drying up. This occurs when the eyes are open and looking into the monitor for too long. The tears evaporate from the eyes faster, causing the eyes to dry up.” CVS could lead to various eye problems.
Eyestrain, which is a common problem, mostly occurs when we are working on something for a long time without taking adequate breaks. It can be caused by activities such as watching television, working on the computer, reading a book or studying for long hours. In such cases, your eye muscles are working hard to help you focus.
During these times, your inner eye muscles tighten up, causing your eyes to get irritated, dry up and feel uncomfortable. In addition, lack of sleep, fatigue, poor lighting and an incorrect posture (such as slouching on your chair), can aggravate eyestrain.
Symptoms include a mild headache, coupled with irritated/ smarting eyes. You might also find it difficult to focus after a prolonged session of reading or looking at your computer screen.
Apart from placing your monitor 25 inches away from where you sit, tilt it a little below eye level. How does this help? Dr Belvi says, “When your eyes are looking down at a lower level, they are opened less as compared to when you look directly into a monitor tilted at a higher level. Thus, keeping the monitor at a lower level helps minimise evaporation of moisture from your eyes.”
Opt for LCD/ plasma monitors as they are more soothing, compared to cathode ray tube monitors. “LCD or plasma monitors are technologically more advanced. As a result, the pixilated picture quality and colour contrast are soothing to the eyes. Compared to that, cathode ray tube monitors are harsh on the eyes as they display focused light on the eyes,” he adds.
You can also set the lighting and brightness of your monitor to a lower glare, as per your comfort level.
ii. Dry Eyes
This problem can be worse for those who wear contact lenses to work on a daily basis. Dry eyes occur when our blink rate declines considerably while working on a computer. More so since we are looking straight ahead into the monitor, as compared to desk work where we look down at our books/ files.
The very act of looking into a monitor without blinking results in tear evaporation. An air-conditioned office environment also contributes to this problem, dehydrating our eyes and causing them to itch.
Some of the basic symptoms of dry eyes are a feeling of dryness and irritation, a gritty/ grainy feeling in the eyes, a blurring of vision, redness, feeling a strain on the eyes, general stress, an intolerance to light, and headaches.
Follow certain precautions like keeping a minimum distance of 25 inches from the screen.
- Fix an antiglare screen on your monitor.
- Take regular visual breaks lasting few minutes, at intervals of 20 minutes — such as looking away from the screen for about a minute and then getting back to work. This will help your eyes focus better.
- Blink your eyes several times so they are nourished with tears.
- Use preservative-free re-wetting eye drops; these can be safely used even by those of you who wear contact lenses.
iii. Vision related headaches
Most of us have suffered from vision related headaches. These signal eyestrain and are usually caused by improper workplace conditions. Glare from the computer screen and poor lighting are some of the main culprits. Some of the main symptoms include headaches that occur mostly toward the front part of your head or forehead, and you finding yourself pressing the point between your eyes and upper part of your nose.
If at home, have lemon tea. If at work, try a hot cup of tea, as it helps soothe headaches. “The best thing is to get some rest for yourself and for your eyes,” suggests Dr Belvi.
Published in Rediff.com on 13th January, 2006.