Posted on September 16, 2011
Do you spend a lot of time in front of the computer?
Ever rub your eyes and want to stop working?
You may be experiencing Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), the official diagnosis given to a range of symptoms that include:
CVS, more commonly known as computer eyestrain, is due to over- or misuse of computer monitors, bad lighting and other environmental and ergonomic factors.
Stubborn, persistent, and regular physical discomfort due to one or more of these symptoms cuts your productivity sharply over time.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has found that 75% of computer users surveyed “reported occasional aching or burning eyes at work,” while another “39% reported blurred vision.”1
According to the Mayo Clinic, CVS reportedly poses few long-term problems, but is nevertheless uncomfortable enough to warrant changes in your work or study attitude and inspire some habits that relieve long periods of routine computer use:
The telecommuter with a laptop has the freedom to go outside, create an office out of thin-air, and work from home, in jeans and tee shirt, or pajamas. Even with all this apparent flexibility there should still be the compulsion to include breaks and alternate routines.
There are plenty of situations in which daylight is the best choice for task work. However, direct sunlight and bright indirect light do not make the best companions for computer work. General lighting rules of thumb apply for those who have to look at a computer monitor for hours each day:
There are, of course, other environmental factors that may contribute to symptoms of computer eyestrain. The architectural amalgam of manmade building materials in our home, dorm, and office environment creates an impervious cocoon. Office air is typically dry which can dry out your eyes. Combine this with the fact that “Computer use results in a decrease of blinking to almost one third of normal.”2 Blinking is the eye’s natural recipe for moisture.
Office environment may be within your power to change. Fluorescent lighting and white-hued cubicles characterize the typical corporate space. The desktop without a computer monitor is rare.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) develops regulations that govern the safety and comfort of the American worker. Your company must make a reasonable effort to provide you with an ergonomically safe workspace.
For example, wrist supports minimize the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome and desk chairs with lumbar supports reduce back strain, particularly for those employees predisposed to either condition. For the growing population of workers demonstrating debilitating symptoms of computer eyestrain, both at home and in the office, there is a stable of helpful hardware and accessories:
Monitors Matter Most
Consumers have a range of monitor types from which to choose and in a wide price range. There are CRT monitors, flat-screen, wide screen, high definition, LCD and screens in matte and glossy finishes. Each delivers a distinctive visual experience.
OSHA’s standards regarding workstation monitors include suggestions for position, angle, settings, and lighting.CRT Monitor Refresh Rates Explained
If you are among thousands of computer users still sharing a desktop with a large and lumbering cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor then you are subject to the flicker-effect.
Inherent in the function of a CRT is the refresh rate of the pixel images. The cathode ray in the monitor constantly scans the screen to “redraw” the image. The process is rapid, but still allows for minute breaks between images perceived as flickers by the human eye.
As a rule, the higher the refresh rate, the better for your vision, although some sources report no noticeable difference above a certain range. As a starting measurement you should consider a 60 Hz refresh rate at the low end of the comfort scale.Consider Your Purpose before Buying a Monitor
Most desktop computer systems come already bundled with a monitor, but generally components or peripherals are customizable. Before you settle for the “affordable” monitor, consider your intended uses for the system. A computer for at home email and bill paying purposes might be just fine with a bottom of the line, curved screen CRT monitor, but if your computer will receive heavy use whether work or enjoyment, you might check into at least one of the flat screen CRTs.
Flat panel desktop monitors offer the best image for a range of prices.
Many offices are now outfitting their workstations with Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) flat panels for a number of reasons such as being ergonomically and electronically sound. CRTs radiate electromagnetic waves and gobble electricity.
A horde of CRTs can very well interfere with other electronic equipment. LCDs, on the other hand, are much more portable, energy frugal, exponentially lighter than their dinosaurian brethren and suited for small spaces. And most importantly the resolution of a LCD monitor reduces computer eye strain.
Fine Tune Your Monitor
LCD monitors allow the user a range of adjustable settings: contrast, color, and brightness and their construct eliminate refresh settings, a characteristic bugaboo of cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors.
Position Your Monitor for Optimal Viewing
Reduce your chances for eye strain by placing your monitor appropriately:
Relieve Glare with Custom Filters for Your Monitor
In response to the 21 st century computer s
lave’s demands, there are all manner of gadgets and accoutrements devised as companion to your workspace, whether that space is office, dorm-room, home, or on-the-fly location. Bright overhead light and bright sunlight are a nemesis for computer work for the glare each produces. Glare on a monitor screen can throw off your whole rhythm:
Make adjustments in computer equipment and accessories relative to your field of work. The type of work you do may exert specific demands on your eyes:
You’ve modified your work habits and adjusted your workspace and computer for optimum visual performance. However, CVS remains a nagging problem that continues to cut into your productivity. Could the problem be opthalmic?
“Computer users should describe their work center to the optometrist so he or she can make suggestions for correcting trouble spots that could be contributing to computer vision syndrome.”7
Here we are a civilized people in the 21st century. Our technology still trips along under the influence of Moore’s Law and yet we are strangely dragged backwards by our physical limitations, which hasn’t changed all that much in the last few thousand-plus years.
For the uber-competitive, the business day no longer ends when the “ five o’clock whistle” blows. Laptops travel. Commuters take work-to-go onto trains, buses, and planes, stretching the business day way beyond the office edges. Work spreads into coffee shops and cafes, and into wired outdoor urban greenspace. Whatever your situation; your burning, dry and strained eyes are a reminder to adapt accordingly or pay the consequences.