Computer use is challenging on the eyes. Problems arising from all-day screen time are so common that doctors have given it a name – Computer Vision Syndrome or CVS. Patients often ask how to relieve these symptoms. The common components of CVS and some practical solutions are described below.
Ametropia is having the wrong prescription. As simple as this sounds, wearing out-of-date glasses or contacts is one of the most common reasons for CVS. Oftentimes, nearsighted people, who are well under 40 years of age, prefer to wear a prescription that is stronger than they need. As they get older, though, this too-strong prescription begins to be a problem for maintaining the near-focus posture that’s needed on the computer.
People struggling with CVS should get their eyes checked. Sometimes a small adjustment to the glasses or contact lens prescription will make an enormous difference in stamina and efficiency on the computer.
Blue Light has been implicated in a variety of eye problems in recent years. The light source in most computer monitors, tablets and phones has a very high proportion of short-wavelength, blue light. Blue light has higher energy than red light which is at the other end of the visible light spectrum. This high-energy light has been long-known to cause damage to sensitive parts of the retina. New research shows that it may cause anxiety, restlessness and even insomnia.
CVS patients benefit greatly by filtering out blue light. At Well Branch Vision, we recommend a lens coating that selectively eliminates short wavelength visible light. These lenses look great, help the wearer to see and preform better and help to protect against the dangers of blue light.
Dryness is another common complaint of computer users – especially those wearing soft contact lenses. It has been shown that computer users blink 60% less than when they are not working on a computer. One of the most important functions of blinking is to spread tears across the cornea. Tears function to hydrate and nourish the cornea, carry away debris and lubricate this important lens surface. Long-term computer use causes corneal dryness which can appear as red eyes and cause discomfort along with poor vision. Severe dryness will make it impossible wear contact lenses and to work on a computer at all.
There are many ways to improve dry eye associated with CVS. And these solutions must be catered to the individual with the problem. Dry eye remedies range in their complexity. Simple fixes include lubricating eye drops and oral dietary supplements to increase tear production. There is vast body of knowledge showing that omega-3 fatty acid (fish oil) supplementation increases tear production.
For contact lens wearers, changing lens brands or solution regimens can also make a big difference. We have seen very good success with the new Ultra with Moisturelock soft contact lens offered by Bausch + Lomb. This lens was designed for people who spend eight or more hours/day on a computer. They were designed to resist drying out as the day progresses. This lens delivers what it promises – and is available as a bifocal and for those needing astigmatism correction.
Other options for dry eye patients include in-office procedures to slow tear from draining out of the eyes and pharmaceutical intervention. Usually a personalized plan that combines a selection of the above approaches works best!
Monitor Glare is something that only happens to glasses wearers. Computers, phones and tablets are bright light sources. The light that strikes a person’s glasses – but then reflects back toward the computer creates haze or glare on glasses lenses. In a standard, untreated polycarbonate lens, approximately 20% of light never makes it through the lens. This light reflects back towards the light source and creates a hazy, white veil that the patient must look through. Glare is a major source of vision distortion while working on a computer. It decreases contrast and makes the computer look out of focus.
The fix for monitor glare is easy. Adding an antireflective coating to glasses lenses increase average light transmission from 80% to 95%. And increasing transmission reduces glare. Glasses with antireflective coating not only function better, but they also look better on!
Fatigue is caused by flexing the focusing muscles that are required to change focus for distance to near. These eye muscles are most at rest when viewing distance targets. When we want to focus on something that is up close, more exertion is required. All-day work routines on the computer are especially fatiguing on the eyes.
The American Optometric Association (AOA) has promoted the 20/20/20 rule to reduce eye fatigue for computer users. This rule states that users should take a 20 second break, every 20 minutes by looking at something at least 20 feet away. But practicing this standard, people are able to give their eyes and rest and use the computer longer with better comfort. The 20/20/20 rule has been so successful that developers have produced computer programs to remind users to take breaks.