A lot of patients come and see us for headache, neck pain, shoulder pain and muscle aches. As well as addressing musculoskeletal problems through our treatments, lending advice on ergonomic postures and prescribing exercise rehabilitation, we have a broader focus on your general health and well-being. Dr Isabel Tan elaborates on Computer Vision Syndrome as another cause of pain and provides 10 tips you can use in conjunction with treatment and advice to achieve better eye health and reduce pain.
Computer vision syndrome: Protecting our eyes from our digital devicesThe human eye is not designed to focus on nearby objects for extended periods of time.1 Rather, it is most relaxed when we are viewing things from a distance.1 However, in today’s modern times, most people devote a significant part of their day using near-vision due to digital device use. With Australians spending an average of 9.4 hours a day on their electronic gadgets, it is unsurprising that more and more individuals are reporting eye-related complaints.2 Computer vision syndrome is a collection of eye and vision problems that occur due to prolonged digital device use.
Symptoms:3• Eye strain or discomfort (pain, burning, irritation, dryness, tearing) • Tired eyes • Blurry vision • Double vision • Difficulty focusing • Sensitivity to bright lights • Headaches • Neck and shoulder pain or muscle ache
Causes:1. Uncorrected vision Prolonged near-vision activities put heavy strain on the tiny muscles that we use to move our eyes and focus our vision.4 Thus, even the slightest uncorrected refractive errors (near-sightedness, far-sightedness or astigmatism) can cause a tremendous increase in eye strain.4 2. Distance and angle of viewing Too far or near a distance leads to squinting, eye fatigue, over exposure to bright light and promotion of poor head and neck posture.4 Additionally, the angle that we view our computers should not be too straight or too deep. The most relaxed position for our eyes is looking straight ahead and slightly downwards at an angle of 30 degrees.4 3. Dry eyes Computer use can lead to dry eyes due to several reasons. Firstly, exposure to office environments that have low humidity, poor ventilation and that use high force fans, air conditioners or heaters can lead to drying of the surface of the eye.4 Secondly, prolonged digital device use significantly decreases the amount of times that we blink, leading to increased dry eye symptoms. When scientists conducted a study on computer users, they found that the participants blinked 22 times per minute when their eyes were relaxed but only 7 times per minute while doing computer work.4 4. Lighting Control Workplace lighting greatly affects vision and productivity. The eyes experience constant strain in environments that are too bright or too dark.1 Also, excessive brightness, blue light and glare emitted by computer or phone screens are a concern as these can cause eye fatigue and sensitivity.3
10 Tips for better eye health1. Get an eye check-up Regular eye examinations will help you find out more about your eye health and will determine whether you need to use prescription lenses. 2. Shift screen position Position your monitor at least one arm’s length away from you. The top of the monitor should be positioned at the same height or slightly below the level of your eyes. 3. Use eye drops Using lubricating eye drops regularly can help with dryness or eye irritation. 4. Keep distance from air conditioners Staying away from fans and high-powered air conditioners or heating systems helps reduce drying of the eyes.4 5. Adjust workplace environment Work in a place with adequate lighting and air humidity.4 6. Adjust screen settings Adjust the size of text and brightness of screens to a comfortable and easy to read level.4 7. Manage computer glare Do not sit directly in front of bright windows or light. Invest in an anti-glare screen filter if needed. 8. Use blue light filter at night Most devices will have blue light filter settings which should be turned on towards the end of the day. Blue light is said to mimic the kind of light that our eyes detect from the sun.4 Exposure to this kind of light at night-time can affect sleep quality.4 9. 3-B Approach: Blink, Breathe and Break!1 Make sure to take regular breaks at work. Every 2 hours take a 15 minute break and do not engage in near-vision activities during this time. 10. 20/20/20 rule Every 20 minutes, look at something that is 20 feet away from you for 20 seconds.1 References: 1. Anshel JR. Visual ergonomics in the workplace. AAOHN Journal. 2007 Oct;55(10):414-20. 2. Lonergan Research. Screen time [Internet]. March 2017 [cited 21 Apr 2020]. Available from: https://1v1d1e1lmiki1lgcvx32p49h8fe-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/1366-Screen-Time-OPSM-FINAL-Report-31-03-2017.pdf 3. Sheppard AL, Wolffsohn JS. Digital eye strain: prevalence, measurement and amelioration. BMJ Open Ophthalmology. 2018 Apr 1;3(1):e000146. 4. Rosenfield M. Computer vision syndrome: a review of ocular causes and potential treatments. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics. 2011 Sep;31(5):502-15. Article by Dr Isabel Joyce Tan