Are computers contributing in eye health problems?

Working with computers is highly visually demanding task. It may cause visual problem and symptoms. Most of the studies report that there are more eye problems with computer operators than with the non-computer office users. It has been noted that visual symptoms occur in about 75% to 90% of people working with computers. Computer vision syndrome (CSV) occurs when viewing demands overshoots the visual ability to see the computer for a particular period of time. When we talk about CSV we refer to people who have discomfort viewing computer. Can anyone can experience these symptoms? Well they can but research has shown that computer users have more intense and series of complications than that of a non-computer user. Poor workplace ergonomics can also contribute in increasing the symptom of CSV.  The contributing factors may include poor lighting, glare on the computer screen, improper viewing distance, poor seating posture, uncorrected vision problem and so on.


How can you diagnose that you have computer vision syndrome?


We must determine that the problem experienced by individuals are not for any medical health reason, medication taken, or environmental factors which may not be related to computer use. Visual acuity must be assessed in order to get an insight on vision and its relation with computer use. To have an idea of how the eye can focus, move and work together orthoptic evaluation can be done. These tests are important as to understand how the two eyes work together as a pair.


Based on all the above factors your optometrist will decide that if you have computer vision syndrome or not.


Eye care and computer vision syndrome:


In cases with individuals who do not need glasses they might get benefited from glasses prescribed specifically for computer use.

  • Glasses or contact lens are given to meet unique visual demands for viewing of computer screen for longer hours. Special design lenses, lens coating may help in maximizing comfort and how you view the screen.
  • Some individuals have a tough time in focusing the screen as co-ordination between the eyes are not that good, that can also be due to under correction in glasses. Vision therapy can help improve these facilities and help the two eyes to work together.

Computer Vision Syndrome

(Picture courtesy: Anil Yadav@Flickr)


There are several factors which we can improve, that will intern improve our condition in fighting this syndrome. The way future in headed we are unlikely to stop using computers, on the contrary computer use will increase in a much broader aspect.


Computer screen location: In most cases individuals feel comfortable when the computer screen is slightly lower than the eye level. In practice the computer should be 15° to 20° lower than the eye level and approximately 28 inches away from the eyes.


Reference document position: The document should be placed below the monitor, if that cannot be done then the position of the document should be such that the head movement is minimum.


Lighting: The position of the screen should be such that the glare effect coming from the other light sources on the screen should be minimum. We can add blinds and drapes to restrict outside light fall on the screen.


Anti-glare screen: Anti-glare screen can be used on the screen to reduce the unwanted noise of light as well as light reflection from outside.


Seating position: Chairs should be adjusted to a comfortable position so that your feet should rest flat on the floor.


Take rest breaks: Eyestrain is the most common problem in CVS. To avoid eyestrain 15 minutes’ breaks are needed after 2 hours of work and to see distant objects after every 20 mins as well which helps in tear stabilization and our ability to refocus.


Blinking: Dry eye may be a secondary cause of CVS. Make an effort to blink frequently so that the front surface of your eyes is always moist.

Regular eye examination and proper work place habit can help reduce symptoms for CVS.

I can definitely conclude by stating a quote from John F. Kennedy: ”Man is still the most extraordinary computer of all”

7 Responses to “Are computers contributing in eye health problems?”

  1. Rosie O'Halloran says:

    I would just like to add a few comments to this discussion. Lowering a chair is not always the straightforward solution as this may result in excessive shoulder elevation or compression of the forearms against the edge of the workstation. A monitor arm is the best solution and the best one on the market is the Flo which we are using as our standard preferred model for new builds
    There is considerable variation in monitor height preference between individuals- depends on whether (and type) of prescriptive lenses are worn and how far away the monitor is positioned from the eyes and therefore the gaze inclination. The size of the screen also determines the monitor height- they are getting bigger. Users should always scroll work up to the top half of the screen to neutralise neck posture. Neck extension- tilting head backwards is fatiguing and risky and should be avoided at all times.
    28 inches from eyes to screen is a very rough guide. Really important to avoid peering or leaning forward to read the screen/s. Shoulders should be in vertical alignment with ears
    Optimal focal distance varies. Multi-focal wearers should have their monitor/s lower and a little tilted upwards to enable a neutral neck posture
    To visually navigate between multiple monitors the task chair should be swivelled rather than the neck!
    Lighting is an important part of the visual environment- most of the complaints I receive relate to glare or too much lighting. We overlight all our environments and in the quest for energy reduction install light fittings with highly reflective casings which create very nasty glare. We also forget that with the rolling out of sit/stand desks suspended ceiling lights become problematic
    If you cant look up in the office at the overhead lights without squinting- it is probably overlit. Diffusers are very helpful
    If you think there is too much light entering your visual field, shield your eyes with your hand like you would if you were out in the sun. If your eyes feel relieved there is probably too much light and your eyes are working too hard.
    Adjusting screen brightness and contrast can help a bit
    We need to be much better at designing our lighting environments at UoM for better eye health -Designing all aspects of our environments for user comfort is central to my role

  2. Soumya Mukherjee says:

    CVS is the most common problem among young generation and perhaps researchers working long time in front of the computer. I wrote this post as I have CVS. Awareness is important and also how we can avoid it. Lubrication or eyedrops are good for eyes with CVS, It helps keep the anterior part of the eye moist.

  3. ke kang says:

    Great reading. Cervical spondylosis and myopia are two common diseases of software engineers. The measures in the blog can help them control these disease, but bad habits are really hard to change.

  4. Jennifer Feinstein says:

    Thanks for this post.. it has been helpful for me, as I have terrible vision already and don’t want to make it worse!

  5. Sarah Misev says:

    Great post Soumya! You have some great tips on eye care. My computer screen is not 15-20 degrees lower than eye level, its actually too high. I will need to adjust my desk now thank you. I sometimes use eyedrops after long stints on the computer. Are eyedrops a good thing?

  6. nbolton says:

    Great post! I’ve been working on the computer all day and my eyes are so tired so your tips will come in handy!

  7. Claudia says:

    Hi Soumya, this is a really relevant topic you have chosen, and I think it affects almost everyone. It’s easy for some our bad habits to go unnoticed when we are so focused on the computer screen. It is also super handy how you included helpful tips to resolve some of the problems.