Dr. Müller, M.D., Explains Everything What You Wanted To Know About Computer Vision Syndrome
Hannah Müller, M.D. in Vienna, Austria, sat down with me to share firsthand experience about eye strain and computer vision syndrome (CVS).
So, as a person who deals with people’s eyes, tell us please what’s the most common disease among computer-workers?
Well, nearly everyone suffers from at least one of the symptoms of computer vision syndrome nowadays.
Short-sightedness is another major issue people have in the modern world. It affects around 1.5 billion people on planet Earth. However, it’s not directly caused by computer usage, but it can contribute to the development of short-sightedness.
Okay! Let’s focus on what is directly caused by spending time at a computer then! What does computer vision syndrome mean?
It’s a bunch of problems — mostly related to your eyes — that you can get by staring at a digital screen for a long time without breaks.
So, if you’re focusing on a computer, tablet, phone or TV screen uninterruptedly for, say, half a day, you will most likely get some symptoms of the computer vision syndrome. It includes blurred vision, dry eyes, difficulties with focusing, irritated eyes, often also a headache and fatigue.
Wow, that’s a lot! But why don’t we get it when reading a book or a newspaper then?
Very often there’s not enough contrast on a computer — letters are less precise and sharp, background colors often don’t match with font colors to produce enough contrast. Glare and reflections on the screen also make our eyeballs work more.
Is that computer vision syndrome permanent?
No, all the symptoms go away as soon as you rest yourself and your eyes. For instance, if you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms at the end of the day, on the next day you’ll be fine.
Can it damage our eyes in the long-term, though?
No, there’s no such a study which would prove that it damages our eyes permanently. Basically, it only gives you an uncomfortable feeling on the day you were affected by the CVS.
Is there something else that can cause this syndrome besides a lack of breaks?
Of course! There are plenty of factors which contribute to the development of eye strain and, consequently, the CVS. It can be glare or reflections on your screen, poor ambient lightning or improper distance between your eyes and the screen.
So, what would you recommend to prevent the computer vision syndrome?
First of all, take breaks. The longer you skip breaks, the harder it is for eyes to recover from strain. In other words, the more often you take breaks, the better it is for your eyes. Also, reduce brightness on your monitor, wipe out the screen and make sure nothing is reflecting on your screen. Don’t
How often should I take breaks?
Well, there’s a very simple guideline when to take breaks and what to do — it’s called a 20–20–20 rule. It says every 20 minutes take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away from you.
American doctors came up with it, so it’s obvious why it uses feet. 20 feet is 6 meters. So, our European version would probably be called 20–20–6 (laughing).
Breaks this often let your eyes recover after short, 20-minute, focusing streaks and stay rested.
Does it work well?
I’m always recommending it to my patients who complain about eye strain. Many of them reported later that the 20–20–20 rule worked well for them. Even though I don’t spend a lot of time at a computer daily, when I do, I also use this rule.
You may probably ask why 20 feet… 6 meters, or 20 feet, is the distance when our eyes are fully relaxed to focus on something.
I think it depends on the level of self-discipline, of course. It’s quite a dense break schedule, you should get used to it, and will go smoothly then.
Some of my patients start doing something only after they observe a significant drop in their vision test. I’d recommend preventing this drop, though!