If you were asked the question, would you be able to count the number of hours you spend in front of a computer screen every week? It’s a question Dr. Vivienne Velasco often asks iFocus Vision Center patients who complain about headaches, neck pain, and dry eyes. The culprit, in many of these cases, is Computer Vision Syndrome, a condition that’s not going away any time soon.
“So many of us are sitting in front of computer screens all day at work, and in front of laptop and tablet screens at night,” Dr. Velasco says. “In between, we’re on our smartphones, so it’s not unheard of for a person to be exposed to as much as 10, 11, or even 12 hours of screen time every day.”
What Is Computer Vision Syndrome?
Computer Vision Syndrome, also known as Digital Eye Strain, is defined by the American Optometric Association as “a group of eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer, tablet, e-reader, and cell phone use,” and is diagnosed by symptoms and patient complaints.
“Patients will tend to complain about eye fatigue, usually in the middle or end of the day,” Dr. Velasco says. “They may also have difficulty focusing for a long period of time on the computer, headaches, intermittent blurred vision, dry and/or red eyes.”
The proliferation of personal computers, smartphones, and tablets contributes to these symptoms and has become an increasingly common complaint among patients, she adds.
What Causes Computer Vision Syndrome?
Increased screen time is just one factor that contributes to the overall problem, Dr. Velasco says. A person experiencing the most common symptoms, which can also include blurred vision, should take a look around his/her workspace and take note of the following and make changes if necessary:
- Lighting. If there is too much glare from overhead lighting coming off of your computer screen, you might want to replace the light bulbs with a lower wattage alternative.
- Screen Distance. According to American Optometric Association guidelines, a computer screen should be, “15 to 20 degrees below eye level as measured from the center of the screen and 20 to 28 inches from the eyes.”
- Seating Position. Poor posture can contribute to the strain on your eyes. You might consider adjusting your seat so your feet rest comfortably on the floor, and utilize padding for your keyboard and mouse.
“Additionally, eye disease and other vision problems will contribute to the strain on your eyes,” Dr. Velasco says.
How Do I Treat Computer Vision Syndrome?
“Unfortunately the use of the devices is pretty much a part of everyone’s daily life, and often it’s necessary to be on these devices for work or school,” Dr. Velasco says.
Because completely cutting ourselves off from screen time is unrealistic, Dr. Velasco recommends a combination of in-office and at-home treatments to relieve the symptoms of digital eye strain.
“If patients are able to just get up and walk around or go outside for a little bit every now and then, it will help,” she explains. Additionally, many of us can access weekly reports from your smartphone which detail how much time we spend looking at them. This can be an effective way to set boundaries and limit your screen time when it’s not absolutely necessary.
“Dry eye is often associated with reduced blinking rates due to screen time,” Dr. Velasco explains. “Blinking exercises force you to take a break, blink hard, and squeeze and stimulate the oil glands around the eyelashes providing a better tear film and reducing dry eyes.”
For patients suffering from dry eye symptoms caused by excessive computer use, Dr. Velasco will recommend Refresh Relieva or Systane Complete artificial tears, which can be used up to four times per day.
iFocus Vision Center provides various types of anti-fatigue lenses that are ideal for patients under the age of 45. “Anti-fatigue lenses have been a big help for my patients,” Dr. Velasco says. “They are also called relaxing lenses because when patients wear them it has a little power boost in the lens for near devices that allows the patient to not have to focus as much, therefore their eyes feel more relaxed.”
Blue Light Blocking Lenses
iFocus Vision Center offers a number of different brands of blue blocking lenses as well as non-glare treatments that also block blue light, which can disrupt regular sleeping patterns and lead to dry eye or other sight-threatening conditions. “Blocking blue light, especially in children, who pretty much will spend their whole lives looking at a screen, is important to protect against the possible negative effects of blue light exposure over time on the lens and retina,” Dr. Velasco says.
Need help treating Computer Vision Syndrome? Call Dr. Velasco at 702-473-5660 or book an appointment online at the iFocus Vision Center website.