Mr. Arun was working in his office for quite a long time that day. He was in front of his computer for more than 6 straight hours as he had a project that was overdue. When it was closing time, his friend Suresh came up to his work station. Sensing his friend"s presence he raised his head to acknowledge his friend"s presence but had difficulty seeing Suresh"s face clearly. He tried hard at focusing and eventually succeeded in seeing the face clearly after 5 minutes. This alarmed him. Was he losing sight?
He sought expert opinion for his eye problem. We did a detailed evaluation and came to the conclusion that he has Computer Vision Syndrome.
What is Computer Vision Syndrome?
The term CVS includes symptoms like eye irritations, foreign body sensations in the eye, redness, eye dryness, headaches, difficulty to focus, blurred vision, and even non-ophthalmic symptoms like backache, neck pains and fatigue that are experienced by people who use the computer for long periods of time.
Computer Vision Syndrome or CVS has been a term long familiar in IT firms and among computer enthusiasts. CVS is not a diagnosis; rather, it is a term used to represent a variety of symptoms felt by persons who work on computers for long periods of time.
CVS has no diagnostic criteria and no accepted protocol for treatment.
What Causes Computer Vision Syndrome?
The causes for CVS are unclear but the association with long periods of computer usage point to some factors that may be termed as risk factors for CVS. These are:
- Uninterrupted work in front of the computer
- Infrequent blinking of the eyes
- Dry Eye
- Incorrect positioning of the computer monitor
- Un-ergonomic positioning of the table / chair
- Improper lighting conditions
What are the common symptoms of CVS?
Blurred vision and headaches are very commonly reported. Another common symptom is a feeling of “tiredness" of the eye. Some complain of the delay in re-focusing the eye.
Another group of people complain of fatigue, neck pain, and backache.
What happens to the eye in CVS?
Most of the eye problems reported by computer professionals point to a condition called “Dry Eye".
Dry Eye refers to a condition where the moisture content of the eye reduces and patients experience sensations like “sand inside the eye", pain, blurred vision, etc. This is seen in women and is due to decreased production of tears that are needed to moisturize the eye.
The eye requires adequate moisture for several reasons:
- A tear film is necessary for clear vision
- Moist eyes maintain the oxygen content in the cornea
- Moist eyes do not allow dust to accumulate
In CVS, the tear production is normal. CVS is seen commonly in males; though there is no reason other than the fact that more males work in the IT sector.
So, what is wrong?
The only explanation is that the tears / moisture evaporates quickly and is not replenished.
Why does this happen?
Normal people blink their eyes 6-8 times a minute. The blinking motion has several functions. Each blink produces a new layer of tears. This also clears the older layer and removes any dust form the eyes.
A person intently looking at a computer screen blinks less often. Some people have been noted to blink as low as 2 times per minute. Two things happen due to this low blink rate:
New tear film is produced at a much reduced rate
The longer the eye remains without a blink, the more tears get evaporated from the surface of the eye.
What is the solution?
CVS can be prevented by following some simple guidelines:
- Most important factor: Position your computer monitor below your eye level. Watch this video (click here) for more accurate information on why this is important and how to do it
- Blink often
- Every 20 minutes, take your eyes off the monitor and try to focus at a distance of more than 20 feet for at least 20 seconds (20:20:20 rule)
- Every 20 minutes, close your eye for at least 20 seconds (20:20 rule)
- Avoid any source of glare on your monitor (from sunlight or a overhead office light)
- Use moisturizing drops (consult your eye surgeon to find out which drop best suits you)
- Use a prescription glass if you have been prescribed one by your eye surgeon
- If you are above 40 and are using bifocal glasses, this may cause neck pain. Ask your eye surgeon to prescribe a progressive glass that will suit your type of work.
- Most importantly, take a break every 3-4 hours. And have plenty of fruits and vegetables.
What you should do:
Contact Dr. Ashley Mulamoottil, who is the Medical Director & Chief Surgeon in Mulamoottil Eye Hospital & Research Center, Kozhencherry, Kerala. You can also interact with him from his Facebook page.