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Go Easy on your Eyes!

Computer overusage can cause eye strain

Woman suffering from eye strain at her laptopComputers have penetrated every facet of society; from homes to schools, offices and public places. In fact, our lives have been literally transformed by computers. In an annual survey conducted by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) in 2012 on infocomm usage in households and by individuals, a startling 67% of those surveyed used the computer at least once a day. 79% amongst those surveyed were between 25 and 34 years old. Even amongst the seniors aged 60 years old and above, 58% used the computer at least once a day.

With such an astonishingly high computer usage among the population, it is no surprise that more and more people suffer from some form of eye strain due to excessive usage.

Desktop computerWhat is eye strain?

Eye strain or asthenopia is an eye condition that manifests itself through non-specific symptoms such as:

  • fatigue
  • pain in or around the eyes
  • blur vision
  • headache
  • occasionaldouble vision

These symptoms often appear after a period of near work such as reading, computer work or sewing.

How does near work cause eye strain?

In order to look at near objects, the internal muscles of the eyes (the ciliary muscles) contract to allow the lens to focus. After a prolonged period of time, this can cause the eyes to be tired and uncomfortable, resulting in eye strain. Giving the eyes a chance to focus on a distant object at least once an hour usually alleviates the problem.

A cathode ray tube (CRT) PC monitor with a low refresh rate of less than 70Hz  or a CRT TV monitor can cause the same problem because the monitor image has a visible flicker. Ageing CRTs also often go slightly out of focus and this can cause eye strain as the eyes struggle to capture the image. A better option for a monitor screen would be an LCD (liquid crystal display) screen as it does not go out of focus and hence, is less susceptible to visible flicker, thus causing less eye strain.

smiling young woman with magnifying glassVids and Vision

In a report by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (USA) on the visual and neurologic effects on the employees of a video hub facility in New York, whose work required them to monitor video displays on computer screens, it was found that a high percentage suffered from various degrees of eye strain.

How can you prevent eye strain?

There are various strategies to reduce eye strain from computer usage. They range from very simple ones like taking more frequent ‘eye breaks’ to more elaborate ones like re-designing your workstation.

  1. Take Breaks

Taking ‘eye breaks’ from looking at the PC screen help the ciliary muscles relax by allowing the eyes to focus on distant objects instead. In addition, you can move about and stretch your arms, legs, back, neck and shoulders to relieve tension and muscle fatigue. It is recommended that during the entire work day, there should be two 15-minute breaks and four 5-minute mini-breaks.

During such breaks, you can also perform eye relaxation exercises such as gazing at a distant object for at least 20 seconds. I would recommend this simple workout for your eyes by Zeiss Singapore found at www.zeiss.com.sg/vision-care/en_sg/better-vision/understanding-vision/health-and-prevention/a-workout-for-your-eyes.html.

  1. iStock_000007212149_MediumCheck your Specs

Many computer users suffer from eye strain because they are using the wrong power for their glasses. A wrongly- prescribed pair of glasses causes eye strain. It is important to have your eyes checked regularly, more so if you already suffer from eye strain. Many above the age of 40 years require reading or intermediate glasses due to the onset of presbyopia. Presbyopia is a condition in which the lens in the eye becomes hardened, preventing it from readily changing its focus from far to near.

Sometimes, I prescribe a pair of computer glasses for my patients suffering from eye strain. This is a pair of progressive glasses whereby the distance portion (upper half) allows clear intermediate vision of the computer screen and the lower potion allows reading.

  1. You Must Adjust

Take a look at your computer display settings and adjust them as necessary. It is important that the text size and contrast are set at a level you are comfortable with. Black words on a white background are easier to read. The brightness level of the display should be approximately as bright as the surroundings.

Short wavelength light like blue colours are also associated with more eye strain compared to long wavelength colours like red and orange.

If you are still using the old CRT monitors, then it is time they are replaced with LCD ones. CRT monitors create flicker of images, causing eye strain.

Lastly, you may also consider modifying your workstation to allow it to be more ergonomically efficient. Eye strain can also be associated with other ailments like neckaches and generalised fatigue from poorly positioned tables and chairs, and even unsuitable lighting.

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author
Clinical Associate Professor Goh Kong Yong is a Senior Consultant Ophthalmologist at Dr Goh Eye Neuro-ophthalmic and Low Vision Specialist, Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, Singapore.
Posted by ezyhealth on Apr 1 2015. Filed under Eye Health. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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