Computer Vision Syndrome….Do You Have It?

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Dr. S.S. Gill, Resident Consultant Ophthalmologist

In our continuing series on Eye Health, Consultant Ophthalmologist Dr. S.S. Gill talks to us about the effect of computers on the eyes.

In today’s world, millions of people do their daily work and socialising on a computer, iPad or smart phone. Almost every urban person today uses a computer for long periods of time, thus requiring the constant use of near vision.

With the permeation of such devices in everyday life, more and more people are now experiencing a variety of ocular symptoms related to computer use. However, most people do not notice the symptoms and just brush them off as having had a tiring day at work.

In actual fact, it is the prolonged computer use that results in symptoms like irritation, tired eyes, redness, blurred vision, eyestrain, tearing, photophobia (unable to tolerate light) and even blurred vision. In some patients, this can progress to chronic headaches as well. These symptoms are collectively referred to as computer vision syndrome (CVS).

Although there is no conclusive scientific evidence proving that computers are harmful to the eyes, it has been noted that anyone who stares at a computer monitor for more than two hours a day is likely to experience CVS to some extent. Computer vision syndrome is estimated to be 40 times more common than carpal tunnel syndrome, which is another health condition affecting computer users but involving the wrist and hands instead.

Letters on the screen (digital text) are formed by tiny dots called pixels which have less sharp edges compared to the solid image in well printed material. This makes the eye work a bit harder to keep these images in focus. When this happens over a long period of time, it can result in the symptoms of CVS. Clinical studies have shown that viewing text on the computer in comparison to viewing hard copy documents results in significantly worse symptoms of fatigue.

Keeping CVS at Bay

One of the most common mistakes we make is to place the monitor of the computer too high. The ideal viewing angle is roughly 10 to 20 degrees below the eye. Thus, a screen that is placed too high can lead to dry irritated eyes because it forces us to constantly keep our eyes wide open and invariably blink less. It is therefore recommended to follow the rule-of-thumb of having the top of the monitor screen placed at the eye level.

Glare from surrounding lamps and lights can also lead to eyestrain. Removing direct light sources that reflect off your screen, moving your computer station, or installing blinds or shades can reduce glare. Another way of eliminating glare is to use anti-reflection computer screens.

If you wear reading glasses to read, consider making a special pair of reading glasses adjusted for computer use as the focal distance would be adjusted for your comfort. The use of lubricating eye drops can also help relieve symptoms of dry eyes associated with CVS. These eye drops can be instilled before, during and after using the PC. Preservative-free artificial tear eye drops are best.

Remember also the 20-20-20 rule to decrease eye strain. For every 20 minutes of computer use, look away for 20 seconds at an object about 20 feet away from you.

For more information on Eye Health, contact Gill Eye Specialist Centre at
05-5455582, email: gilleyecentre@dr.com or visit www.fatimah.com.my.