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What is Computer Vision Syndrome?

Katarina Markin – Lake Country Optometry

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Computer Vision Syndrome affects an estimated 65% of computer users. If you use multiple screens, you are even more likely to experience symptoms.

Common symptoms of computer vision syndrome are:

  • burning-watering
  • headache or eye ache
  • double vision
  • blurry vision-light sensitivity

If you get these symptoms whenever you are working up close regardless of whether you are using a screen or not, then you likely have a vision problem related with “near” work. If this is the case, an optometrist can provide several treatment recommendations.

Let’s assume that the issue is only when using a computer. What is the problem with computers specifically? First, glare from poor lighting sources such as open windows will be more pronounced if you are working on a screen. Vision is most comfortable if the brightness of the screen and environment are relatively equal and there is no glare on the computer screen. Second, computer monitors need to continuously refresh which causes a flicker. Normally this flicker happens so quickly that it is not noticeable to the user. However, this “critical flicker-fusion frequency” for computer users has been shown to fatigue over time spent on the computer. It is thought that one of the reasons that blue-light blocking glasses reduces fatigue is because it preserves the critical flicker-fusion frequency for the wearer.

We still haven’t gotten to the most common cause of fatigue related to computer use – dry eye! With any focused work, we need to consider drying-out of the outer surface of the eye. Humans blink less than half as often when staring at a computer compared to a more natural environment. The tears literally evaporate from your eyes while you are staring at your computer screen. The solution? Optometrists like to reference the 20/20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes take a break for 20 seconds and look at something 20 feet away from you. Set a timer to remember and if you feel you need further relief, use a drop of your favourite artificial tear to rehydrate your eyes.