We spend a lot of time staring at a screen. At work, at play and seemingly all times in between. Our eyes are glued to our screens, whether it is a television, a laptop or a smartphone. Obviously there are certain social issues that come with this and just as important there are physical issues that do as well. Of course Americans are getting fatter and much of that can be traced to a lack of physical activity but staring at the screen can also have serious implications for a person’s vision.

If you use a computer you are affected

Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) affects between 64% and 90% of all computer users. It causes eye strain, redness, irritation, dryness, a burning sensation, blurred or double vision, headaches or neck and shoulder pain. It can affect anyone who stares at a screen for more than two hours during at a time but the good news is that it is not permanent.

What can you do?

There are some things that a person can do to alleviate some of the symptoms. One of the easiest is to control the brightness of the screen. Bright screens cause irritation and with smartphones can chew through battery life. Decrease the brightness to whatever the surroundings are. Another option is to invert the colors (or adjust the color temperature) which will cut down on the amount of light that the screen puts off and can make text easier to read. The color scheme can be moved from blue to yellow. Blue light has been found in animals to damage the retina if it is intense and yellow is more in tune with a body’s circadian rhythms.

The display itself is important. Modern LCD screens are easier on the eyes and have an anti-reflective surface on them. If you are still using an old CRT monitor it is time to upgrade. The refresh rate on the screen can impact your vision and LCD monitors prevent the flickering of images which was a leading cause of strain. When searching for a monitor the higher resolution the better.

The lighting in the room can play a role as well. Incandescent lights are best for the room and a dim light can be placed on both sides of the computer to create an equal amount of light and darkness which will reduce strain. High intensity lamps should not be used.

Just as important is keeping a proper space between the screen and your eyes. Your eyes have to work harder if the screen is closer so keeping it an appropriate distance makes sense. A recent study determined that the optimal distance is about 16 inches. The screen should also be about 15-20 degrees (about 4-5 inches) below your eyes. This will help to reduce strain and the exercise will be good for your eyes. Of course it is also a good idea to simply get away from the screen for several minutes. A short five minute break to walk away from the screen here and there will not hurt productivity and can help to relax the muscles in the head, neck and shoulders.

While actually working in front of a screen there are some other things that you can do. Blinking frequently helps to keeps your eyes wet and reduces irritation. It is also a good idea to take a break every so often. Take a few seconds to simply look away from the screen and focus on something else. This can also help to reduce glare as can closing the blinds. Another good way to reduce glare is to regularly clean the screen to remove dust.

Take a break from the screen

When you do get away from the computer there are a few other things that you can do. One of the easiest it to take vitamins that can improve eye health and reduce strain. Vitamins A,C,E with a B complex and Zinc work best. Also it would be a good idea to see an eye doctor for regular checkups. Most people who report CVS wear glasses or contacts and making sure that their prescription is correct can go a long way towards mitigating the symptoms. Specialized computer eyewear can also be worn and is especially helpful for people who wear contacts or bifocals. They are tinted to cut down on harmful blue light that the screen emits.

Many modern jobs require working with a computer and with most people attached to their smartphones there is no getting away from the screen. It is nice to know that there are some things that can be done to reduce the amount of strain on our eyes. Sometimes though it is nice to just get away from the screen and go for a walk. That works too. And bring the kids.

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