Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS)

What is Computer Vision Syndrome?

In this day and age, we are constantly staring into a screen, and this modern habit is making computer vision syndrome a growing issue. Your screen use may start with a desktop at work, then grow to a laptop at home, a tablet for leisure and a smartphone while on the run. With all of that screen time, we are demanding a lot of our eyes and when they cannot meet these demands they let us know. Our eyes indicate that we’ve spent too much time online with blurry vision, headaches, asthenopia (strain or tired eyes), double vision, watery and red, irritated eyes.  A study done by Hue, Rosenfield & Saa (2014) concluded that reading from electronic devices is not the same as reading from a hardcopy, because of differences in accommodation, reading rate and symptoms.

What can lead to CVS?

The most common culprit for computer vision syndrome is an uncorrected refractive error. We need the appropriate prescription to be able to focus on the contents on the computer. The distance from the computer to our eyes, and our eyes ability to focus from this distance, will directly affect our ability to see. Our computers are considered to be at an intermediate distance, because this distance is not as close as we would hold a book, but not as far as we would distance ourselves from our television sets.  This requires task-specific prescription glasses or contact lenses. Any eye muscle misalignments or accommodative problems can cause computer vision syndrome and these vision issues need to be addressed by your optometrist.

CVS symptoms & preventative measures

When using the computer, there’s also significant risk of dry eye related symptoms, such as red, burning and watering eyes.  We generally blink 10-15 times in a minute. However, when we are engrossed in work on our electronic devices our blink rate drastically reduces to around 4 times a minute. Blinking is important because it lubricates the cornea by spreading tears over our eyes.

It is also important to keep our computers 10-15 degrees below our eye level. This will ensure that when we blink they are complete blinks that lubricate the cornea and inhibit dry eyes. According to Portello, Rosenfield & Chu (2013), achieving complete coverage during blinking is more helpful in alleviating symptoms of computer vision syndrome than merely blinking more often. If your dry or red eyes are persistent, improved blinking may not be sufficient; you may need eye drops prescribed by our optometrists to relieve the symptoms of dry eyes.

Give yourself & your eyes a break

When working, reading or playing on a screen, one should take a 20-second break every 20 minutes and remember to blink and change focus by looking at an object far away. Screen users should not train their eyes to constantly focus on near objects, as this may bring out the symptoms of blurry, tired and strained eyes.

The brightness of your electronic device should match your surrounding environment.  This means that room lights should not be dimmer or brighter than our computer screens.  Proper anti-reflective coating on your glasses can help with the strain you experience from bright or flickering light sources. Certain AR coating even reduces the blue LED light from our computer screens, providing a cooling effect for your eyes.

If you are looking for a solution for vision problems that are caused by too much screen time, our optometrists will be happy to help you find the right remedy for your eyes. Contact our optometry office in downtown Toronto and see differently, whether or not you’re looking at a screen.

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