Computer Eye Strain: 10 Steps for Relief
This is an all time issue as the trend of technology climbs tremendously each year. Each year we find new innovations and new inventions in the technology industry. With so many of us using computers at work, computer eye strain has become one of the major office-related health complaints. Studies* show that eye strain and other bothersome visual symptoms occur in 50 percent to 90 percent of computer workers.
These problems can cause physical fatigue, decreased productivity and increased numbers of work errors.
Here are steps both workers and employers can take to reduce computer eye strain and the other common symptoms of computer vision syndrome (CVS):
1. Get a computer eye exam.
This is the most important thing you can do to prevent or treat computer vision problems. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), computer users should have an eye exam before they start working on a computer and once a year thereafter. Be sure to tell your eye doctor how often you use a computer at work and at home.
2. Use proper lighting.
Eye strain is often caused by excessively bright light either from outdoor sunlight coming in through a window or from harsh interior lighting. When you use a computer, your ambient lighting should be about half that found in most offices.
Eliminate exterior light by closing drapes, shades or blinds. Reduce interior lighting by using fewer light bulbs or fluorescent tubes, or use lower intensity bulbs and tubes. If possible, position your monitor so that windows are to the side of it, instead of in front or back.
3. Minimize glare.
Glare on walls and finished surfaces, as well as reflections on the computer screen can also cause computer eye strain. You may want to install an anti-glare screen on your monitor and, if possible, paint bright white walls a darker color with a matte finish.
Again, cover the windows. When outside light cannot be reduced, consider using a computer hood.
If you wear glasses, have an anti-reflective (AR) coating applied to your lenses. AR coating reduces glare by minimizing the amount of light reflecting off the front and back surfaces of your eyeglass lenses.
4. Upgrade your display.
If you have not already done so, replace your old tube-style monitor (called a cathode ray tube or CRT) with a flat-panel liquid crystal display (LCD), like those on laptop computers.
LCD screens are easier on the eyes and usually have an anti-reflective surface. Old-fashioned CRT screens can cause a noticeable “flicker” of images on the screen, a major source of computer eye strain. Even if this flicker is imperceptible, it can still contribute to eye strain and fatigue during computer work.
Complications due to flicker are even more likely if the refresh rate of the monitor is less than 75 hertz (Hz). If you must use a CRT at work, adjust the display settings to the highest possible refresh rate.
When choosing a new flat panel display, select a screen with the highest resolution possible. Resolution is related to the “dot pitch” of the display. Generally, displays with a lower dot pitch have sharper images. Choose a display with a dot pitch of .28 mm or smaller.
Finally, choose a relatively large display. For a desktop computer, select a display that has a diagonal screen size of at least 19 inches.
5. Adjust the brightness and contrast of your computer screen.
Adjust the display settings on your computer so the brightness of the screen is about the same as your work environment.
As a test, try looking at the white background of this web page. If it looks like a light source, it’s too bright. If it seems dull and gray, it may be too dark.
Also, adjust the screen settings to make sure the contrast between the screen background and the on-screen characters is high. And make sure that the text size and color are optimized for the most comfort — read the tips in the sidebar.
Adjusting how your monitor displays text can provide welcome eyestrain relief. Ideally, your text size should be three times the smallest text size you can read from your normal viewing position, according to computer vision syndrome expert Dr. James Sheedy.
He also recommends black text on a white background as the best color combination for your eyes; other high-contrast, dark-on-light combinations are also acceptable.
To adjust the text size and color settings in the Windows operating system, use the Display Properties dialog box, which is available from the Control Panel. Depending on which version of Windows you have, font size will either be on the Settings tab or the Appearance tab. Color choices are on Appearance.
If you’re online and using the Internet Explorer browser, you can click on View, then choose the Text Size that is most comfortable for you. Most other browsers and email programs also let you change the text size and color, but you may have to do some exploring through the Help menus to find those controls. — Gina White
6. Blink more often.
Blinking is very important when working at a computer; it rewets your eyes to avoid dryness and irritation.
When working at a computer, people blink less frequently — about five times less than normally, according to studies.
Tears coating the eye evaporate more rapidly during long non-blinking phases and cause dry eyes. Also, the air in many office environments is dry, which can increase the evaporation rate of your tears, placing you at greater risk for dry eye problems.
If you experience dry eye symptoms, ask your eye doctor about artificial tears for use during the day. By the way, don’t confuse lubricating drops with the drops that only “get the red out.” The latter can indeed make your eyes look better. They contain ingredients that reduce the size of the blood vessels on the surface of your eyes to “whiten” them. But they are not necessarily formulated to reduce dryness and irritation.
Try this exercise: Every 20 minutes, blink 10 times by closing your eyes as if falling asleep (very slowly). This will help rewet your eyes.
7. Exercise your eyes.
A component of computer eye strain is focusing fatigue. To reduce your risk of tiring your eyes by constantly focusing on your screen, look away from your computer every 20 minutes and gaze at a distant object outside or down the hallway. Looking far away relaxes the focusing muscles inside the eye to reduce fatigue.
Another exercise is to look far away at an object for 10-15 seconds, then gaze at something up close for 10-15 seconds. Then look back at the distant object. Do this 10 times. This exercise reduces the risk of your eyes’ focusing ability to “lock up” (a condition called accommodative spasm) after prolonged computer work.
Both of these exercises will reduce your risk of computer eye strain. Remember also to blink frequently during the exercises to reduce your risk of computer-related dry eye.
8. Take frequent breaks.
To reduce your risk for computer vision syndrome and neck, back and shoulder pain, take frequent breaks during your computer work day.
Many workers take only two 15-minute breaks from their computer throughout their work day. According to a recent study conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), discomfort and eye strain were significantly lower when computer workers took four additional five-minute “mini-breaks” throughout their work day.
And these supplementary breaks did not reduce the workers’ productivity. Data entry speed was significantly faster as a result of the extra breaks, so work output was maintained even though the workers had 20 extra minutes of break time each day.
During your computer breaks, stand up, move about and stretch your arms, legs, back, neck and shoulders.
Check your local bookstore or consult your fitness club for suggestions on developing a quick sequence of exercises you can perform during your breaks and after work, to reduce tension in your arms, neck, shoulders and back.
9. Modify your workstation.
If you need to look back and forth between a printed page and your computer screen, this can cause eye strain. Place written pages on a copy stand adjacent to the monitor. Light the copy stand properly. You may want to use a desk lamp, but make sure it doesn’t shine into your eyes or onto the computer screen.
Improper posture during computer work also contributes to computer vision syndrome. Adjust your workstation and chair to the correct height.
Purchase ergonomic furniture to enable you to position your computer screen 20 to 24 inches from your eyes. The center of your screen should be about 10 to 15 degrees below your eyes for comfortable positioning of your head and neck.
10. Consider computer eyewear.
For the greatest comfort at your computer, you may benefit from having a customized eyeglasses prescription for your computer work. This is especially true if you normally wear contact lenses, which may become dry and uncomfortable during sustained computer work.
Computer glasses are also a good choice if you wear bifocals or progressive lenses, because these lenses are generally not optimal for the distance to your computer screen.
This entry was posted on March 9, 2010 by requermejka. It was filed under Current Events, News Portal and was tagged with causes of eye problem, computer related eye risks, computer risk, Current Events, eye health risk, eye problem, Health Portal, health risks, News Portal.