in technology may boost our productivity in the workplace, but
increasing evidence shows those advances also are making our
collective eyesight worse.
As many offices
now focus nearly their entire workflow on employees sitting at
cubicles staring for hours at electronic screen displays, a new form
of eye strain called computer vision syndrome is being diagnosed and
treated by optometrists across the country.
"I see it a
lot more, itís pretty common now," says Dr. Brian McGinley, an
optometrist at Optix on Downer in Milwaukee. "I definitely see
patients (with that issue) every week."
usually part of the discussion in a normal eye exam," says Dr.
Wanda Martinez, a comprehensive ophthalmologist at the Medical College
of Wisconsin Eye Institute. "Are you driving OK? Are you reading
OK? I also ask about the computer ó is that a problem?"
a condition of the older generation. Patients in their 60s, 70s and
80s didnít have this kind of problem that our generation has."
A recent study
shows that between 50 and 90 percent of people who work at a computer
have some symptoms of eye trouble. Computer vision syndrome is not
unlike other work-related repetitive stress injuries such as carpal
As computer use
increased exponentially in recent years, an increase in eye strain was
inevitable. "The eye muscle is a fluid system," says
McGinley. "A lot of people have to focus on the computer screen
for 10 straight hours. After a while, that system becomes locked up.
It can get into almost like a spasm in the sense that you start to
lose some of the flexibility."
focus intently on information that passes by so quickly," says
Martinez. "The eyes get tired and dry."
After long hours
on the computer, vision can get blurry, says McGinley. And thereís
no set time when the condition will present itself. That largely
depends on an individualís overall eye health.
struggle with the condition vary in age, but the most common age group
being treated for computer vision syndrome is 18 to 35, says McGinley.
Work produced on
personal computers, laptops, tablets, phones and yet undiscovered
devices is not likely to go away anytime soon. But there are ways to
lessen eye strain at the office.
"The No. 1
thing is to try to change your focus, change your focus from the near
proximal computer screen to far (with a vantage point of 18 to 22
inches from the screen depending on the type and size of the screen.)
Get up and take breaks if possible," says McGinley.
important," agrees Martinez. "You need to step away, look
away and blink. Not blinking often, focusing on the computer, you get
your eyes dry."
computer screens and changes in lighting ó nonfluorescent, softer
lighting is best. Special glasses and lenses also can help ease the
stress of extended computer viewing.
"A lot of
cases we can help with glasses," says McGinley, who recommends
adjusting glare, lighting and viewing distance before exploring
special glasses. "For some people, different eye drops can help.
Youíre sitting there staring, not blinking as much and eyes can dry
recommends keeping a bottle of artificial tears handy to combat
dryness and says reading glasses are not ideal for computer screen
distance glasses that are purchased over the counter generally should
be weaker than reading glasses, about 1 diopter (the unit of
measurement) weaker. If youíre using plus-2.50 for reading, you
should use plus-1.50 for computers." says Martinez, who adds that
anyone with prescription reading glasses could have computer glasses
made to fit their individual eyesight.
as simple as a change in font style to create a more vision-friendly
contrast in letters can make a big difference.
If you spend
much of your day looking at computer screens and begin experiencing
headaches or eye strain, you should see your optometrist, says
McGinley. "There will be certain tests to see how bad it is, if
the accommodation of the focusing system is compromised due to all of
this excessive computer use over the years."
address it daily you wonít have those days where you canít stand
it and your day will be more comfortable," say Martinez.