April - Computer Eye Strain: The Dilbert Syndrome
Computer Eye Strain: The Dilbert Syndrome
Do your eyes feel gritty, dry or red after you have worked at your computer for extended periods of time? If so, you may be a casualty of modern technology...eyestrain associated with video display terminals (VDTs). Not too many years back the computer was a luxury for office use and totally unheard of for students in study use. How time slips away! Now we must have a computer for everything we do. As great as they are, computers are very hard on your eyes and the more time you spend in front of one, the more likely you are to experience the downside of technology advancement.
Computer-related symptoms include headaches, tired eyes, blurred or double vision, increased sensitivity to light and difficulty focusing or refocusing between the monitor and other objects. As bothersome as these symptoms are, there is no evidence of permanent damage from prolonged use of VDTs. Numerous tests have shown no relationship between computer use and cataracts, retinal damage, or permanent nearsightedness. The strain computer usage places on eye muscles can, however, cause a lot of unnecessary discomfort.
Practically all computer-related eye problems are preventable and correctable. Perhaps the most significant factor in preventing computer related eyestrain is appropriate lighting. Brighter is not necessarily better, as excessively bright overhead lighting frequently causes glare. To avoid glare:
- Use indirect lighting such as an adjustable light source at your desk to find the right amount of glare-free light.
- The light source should be behind you, coming across your shoulder and hitting the screen at right angles.
- Keep your monitor turned away from windows and do not place your computer in front of a window.
- Do not work in the dark. The contrast between computer generated light and the lack of background light trains eyes.
- Use a glare shield, available at most computer stores, to reduce uncomfortable reflection.
Another source of eyestrain may be the position of your computer monitor. The optimal screen position is at about 10 to 20 degrees angle below eye level. Looking down at the screen allows you to review it with less of your eye surface exposed and prevents your eyes from drying. Placing the top of the screen below eye level also prevents head and neck aches caused by tilting your head back to look up at the monitor. Keep your texts, paper work and other material close to the screen, perhaps on a screen mount.
Many people sit too close to the monitor, which interferes with the eye's ability to focus on the screen. Try to keep the screen about 20-26 inches from your eyes. If you are straining and squinting to read the screen from the distance, consider using larger font sizes or use the zoom features to enlarge the characters. Dust the screen often with an anti-static cloth. It is amazing what a difference just a little dust makes. Periodic rest breaks are vital to the health and comfort of your eyes. Every 15 minutes, spend about 20 seconds looking around the room and refocusing your eyes on a distant point. While you are at it, do some stretching exercises to relieve tension in your back, shoulders and neck. Finally, remember to blink. Generally, you blink about 22 times each minute. Infrequent blinking produces fewer tears and also causes important eye moisture to evaporate. Without tears, vision becomes blurry and eyes feel miserably uncomfortable.
Relief from computer-tired eyes is usually just a blink away. If frequent blinking, warm compresses and a 24 hour "time out" from the computer do not reduce dryness and irritation, visit an ophthalmologist or other eye care professional.
Although many over-the-counter eye products promise to "get the red out' and sooth irritated eyes, they can ultimately make the condition worst.
WHEN SIGNS OF EYE STRESS ARE TAKING A TOLL,
TAKE 5 & TAKE BACK CONTROL
Ted Gordon is the Risk Management/Loss Control Manager for the Mississippi State University Extension Service and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. His office is located in the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center, in Verona, MS. His telephone number is 662-566-2201.