What to Know, and Do, About Computer Vision Syndrome
Callie Mosburg, O.D.
Optometrists have spent years recommending that children have very limited time using digital devices. It was a great idea until we found ourselves in the middle of a pandemic and all schools went virtual. Not only are students now spending more time on screens, but adults are as well. From virtual school to virtual work and virtual grocery shopping to virtual church services, so many things now take place digitally. It is safe to say we are all spending more time on screens these days, and more time on screens equals more people struggling with computer vision syndrome.
Computer vision syndrome is a group of symptoms that arise from working (and playing) on digital screens for long periods of time. The most common symptoms are eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and neck and shoulder pain. There are several different factors that combine to cause these symptoms, including poor lighting, glare from the screen, poor posture, uncorrected vision problems and improper viewing distances.
The good news is many of these factors can be changed or controlled. The best place to start is with a full eye exam for you and your children. Let your eye doctor know how much time you spend on a digital screen and what symptoms you are experiencing. It is also a good idea to know and share how far away you sit from your computer screen or where you hold your phone or tablet. This helps your doctor prescribe the best glasses for the job. In many instances, the glasses you use for everyday wear are not adequate for long days on a computer screen. Your doctor may also recommend an anti-glare coating or blue-light blocking filter for your computer glasses.
We naturally blink less while concentrating on a screen, so dry eye symptoms can become exacerbated and lead to more eyestrain and discomfort. Preservative-free artificial tears can help.
If poor posture or viewing distance seems to be a problem, there are many resources online to help you adjust your workspace to give you the best angle and distance for your screens, desk and chair (try searching “OSHA desk ergonomics”).
One last quick tip to keep eyestrain at bay is the “20-20-20 Rule”. This is an easy reminder that for every 20 minutes spent looking at a digital screen, take a 20-second break looking at least 20 feet away. You can also use that break to stand up and stretch or move around a bit. If you are experiencing symptoms of computer vision syndrome, try some of these changes in your work or school environment today.
Callie Mosburg, O.D., is the owner of The Eye Site, PLLC in Alva, OK. She graduated from Northwestern Oklahoma State University in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. Dr. Mosburg continued her education at Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry in Tahlequah and graduated in 2015 with her Doctorate of Optometry degree. She is married to Calleb Mosburg, ’07, who serves as the Dean of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at Northwestern. They reside in Alva with their daughters, Reese, 5, and Ashton, 10 months.