Health Topics

Healthy Living

January 2010
Eyes Wide Open
Dr Pooja Kanodia
Computer Vision Syndrome has become a very common problem for many, making it almost 40 times more common than other health conditions affecting computer users

Do you work on the computer too much? Can't help it, right, with almost all of today's companies running on mass usage of computers? Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), as the name suggests, refers to eye and vision problems experienced because of computer use.

Your eyes react very differently to electronically generated characters, than to printed characters on a page. Characters displayed on a computer screen are made up of many, many small dots or pixels. Your eyes have a very hard time focusing on the pixel characters. This constant flexing of the focusing (ciliary body) muscles is what creates fatigue, and generates burning and tired eyes.

Blink, Blink
Your eyes are designed to blink 16–20 times every minute, which moistens your eyes. But while working long hours focusing on computer screens, the blink rate decreases to as low as 6–8 blinks/minute! This leads to dry eyes. Also, the near-focusing effort required for long hours puts strain on the ciliary muscles of the eye. This induces symptoms of eye strain (asthenopia) and leads to a feeling of tiredness in the eyes after long hours of work. To avoid such a situation, make sure you don't spend more than two hours on a computer each day. But if you have to (particularly if your work demands that), then take regular intervals to relax your eyes by shutting them or looking out of the window.

The first target of CVS therapy is the dry eyes. This is done by the use of over-the-counter artificial tear solutions. Proper rest is recommended to relieve the associated eye strain. Another routinely recommended approach is to consciously blink the eyes every now and then (this helps replenish the tear film) and to look out the window to a distant object or to the sky—doing so, provides rest to the ciliary muscles. One of the catch phrases is the '20-20-20 rule': every 20 minutes, focus the eyes on an object 20 feet (6 metres) away for 20 seconds. Otherwise, close your eyes (which has a similar effect) for 20 seconds, at least every half hour. The use of eye glasses with minimum power (+1.00 to + 1.50) is recommended to help those suffering from decreased focusing capability.

Adjust Your Computer
Remember, proper lighting can reduce eyestrain and glare. Most offices are wrongly lit. When using computers, the lighting should be only about half of that used in most offices. Place your monitor directly in front of you, not off to one side. It should be about 20 to 26 inches away from you. Make sure your monitor is just right for you, not too high and not too low. One of the most common problems is that the computer is placed too high. The top of the screen should be at eye level. This is because the ideal gaze angle is 10 to 20 degrees below the eye. You may need to raise or lower your chair. Adjust the contrast between the background and the characters on the screen by adjusting the brightness on your computer screen. Good news is CVS has not been proven to cause any permanent damage to the eye - but the bad news is, more and more people today suffer from CVS even though they don't 'work' on it. Their computer time comprises of games, social networks etc. Please be sensible and cut down as many hours as possible from the computer.

10 Symptoms of CVS
Ignoring eye related conditions will only make your situation worse. Without proper treatment the condition of your eyes will continue to worsen.
  1. Eyestrain
  2. Headache
  3. Blurred vision
  4. Dry and irritated eyes
  5. Tired eyes
  6. Redness of eyes
  7. Double vision
  8. Sensitivity to light and slow refocusing
  9. Neck or backache
  10. Colour distortion
Dr. Pooja Kanodia is Senior Registrar – Ophthalmology at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi