5 Things You Need to Know about Computer Vision Syndrome

Computer vision syndrome, also known as digital eye strain, is an eye condition that occurs when you spend too much time looking at the screen of your computer, phone, or tablet. Here are five things you need to know about computer vision syndrome.

1. What are the signs of computer vision syndrome?

The most common symptom of computer vision syndrome is eye fatigue: this symptom affects 64.95% of people with the condition. Other common symptoms include eye strain and eye irritation. You may also notice that your eyes are itching or burning, and your vision may be blurred. Some people also develop excessive tearing.

Computer vision syndrome frequently causes non-eye-related symptoms, as well, like headaches, neck pain, and back pain. You may also feel tense or generally tired. If you notice these signs, step away from your computer and get evaluated by your optometrist right away.

Why do digital screens cause eye strain?

While reading a computer or phone screen may not feel much different from reading printed materials, the visual demand is not the same, and your eyes need to work harder to read a digital screen. This is the case for many reasons.

A digital screen is made up of many tiny pixels, and this means that the borders of letters aren't as clear as they would be on paper. This effect is worse if your computer has a low screen resolution, as a low screen resolution means that there are fewer pixels.

The contrast of a digital screen is also a factor. Digital screens are backlit, and this backlighting creates a strong contrast between the words and background. This contrast is not present when you're reading from printed materials.

Glare and reflections on your digital screens can also put demands on your eyes. This can be a problem if your computer is near a window of if you use your phone outdoors. Light reflects off of your screen and into your eyes, and you may struggle to see the words on the screen past the objects that are reflected in the screen.

How common is this condition?

Computer vision syndrome is reported to be a very common condition. According to the American Optometric Association, between 50% and 90% of people who use computers will suffer from eye-related symptoms at some point. Every year, optometrists in the United States perform about 10 million eye exams that are related to computer vision syndrome complaints. Since this condition is so common, all computer users should assume that they're at risk and take steps to protect their eyes.

Can computer vision syndrome damage your eyes?

Computer vision syndrome isn't dangerous, though it can still cause problems for sufferers. The discomfort can leave you unable to work on the computer for extended periods of time; this may mean that you need to find a new job that doesn't involve using a computer. Young people who develop computer vision syndrome may end up needing to get glasses for distance vision, which can be a nuisance.

How can you protect your eyes?

To protect your eyes, take frequent breaks. After 20 minutes of staring at a digital screen, look at a distant object for about 20 seconds. This can be as simple as looking out the window or gazing around the cubicle farm. These short, frequent breaks allow the muscles around your eyes to relax, which helps to take the strain off of your eyes.

Computer glasses can also help your eyes relax. These glasses are designed based on your vision correction prescription, the distance between your body and your computer, the lighting in your office, and other factors. Your optometrist can prescribe the perfect pair of computer glasses based on your needs.

If you think you have computer vision syndrome, make an appointment with your optometrist to discuss your concerns. Click here to find out more about how an optometrist can help you with your eye health.