Computer Vision Syndrome
Computer Vision Syndrome, or Digital Eye Strain, is a recent epidemic affecting our entire population. It has increased with advent of digital devices such as smart phones, tablets, and monitors. This near foucs causes accommodation issues that can cause visual disturbances after prolonged use. General distance only glasses, especially for the younger population, may not correct for these issues.
Studies have shown that the average American spends nearly 7 hours focusing on some type of digital device, whether it be computer screens, tablets, e-readers, or smart phones. This puts an enormous strain on the visual system, which is not corrected by simple distance glasses correction.
The most common symptoms associated with Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) or Digital Eye Strain are1:
- blurred vision
- dry eyes
- neck and shoulder pain
These symptoms may be caused by:
- poor lighting
- glare on a digital screen
- improper viewing distances
- poor seating posture
- uncorrected vision problems
- a combination of these factors
To help alleviate this strain, remember the 20-20-20 rule: For every 20 minutes of near work, take a 20 minute break, to focus at something at least 20 feet away.
Your optometrist can also help alleviate these symptoms with custom Digital Eye Strain Prescription lenses that can reduce the strain from computer strain throughout the day. These lenses are highly recommended for anyone using more than 4-6 hours at a computer screen or digital device.
CVS or Digital Eye Strain can be diagnosed by your optometrist with the following tests:
- Distance and near Visual Acuity
- Manifest Refraction
- Patient History
- Binocular and accommodation visual testing
CVS also affects the health of the ocular surface, and can lead to a Tear Film Deficiency. Your tear film is the first refractive surface of the eye, and accounts for a large portion of your visual performance. Several vision issues patients have are not related to a glasses prescription, but due to a tear film deficiency. Symptoms include:
- Fluctuations in vision
- Burning or irritation
- Watery eyes
- Tired eyes, especially after prolonged computer use
- The need for frequent artificial tears or eye drops
- Red eyes
When you stare at a computer screen or digital device, your blink reduces by as much as 70%. Your blinking mechanism is responsible for preventing your healthy tear film from evaporating from your eye. With reduced blinking, your tear film becomes unstable, and can lead to a tear film deficiency. Reduced blink rate can also cause damage to you meibomian glands, which are located on your upper and lower lids, and are responsible for keeping a healthy tear film.
Your optometrist can diagnose tear film deficiency due to CVS by performing medical testing in the office including:
- Slit lamp examination – using a microscope to evaluate the tear film, conjunctiva and corneal tissues.
- Vital dye testing – instilling orange or green dyes to assess quality of tear film
- Schirmers or phenol red testing – using a strip of litmus paper or thread to measure tear volume
- Meibomian gland testing – assessing the function of the glands using a microscope
- Anterior segment photography – using high quality imaging to assess the health of the front portion of the eye
- Patient history – lifestyle, environment, diet, medications, and certain illnesses make someone more at risk for developing tear film deficiencies.
Schedule an appointment with your optometrist to get assessed for Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) or Digital Eye Strain. Treatment can be initiated to help alleviate symptoms and prevent progression.
For more information about CVS or Digital Eye Strain, you can visit the AOA website, the link is provided below.