A reminder about “computer vision syndrome”

I’ve been reminded to take care of my eyes, and not overstrain them when using the computer – which I do for several hours every day, being a writer.  A New York Times article last year shed light on the subject.

… computer vision syndrome … can affect anyone who spends three or more hours a day in front of computer monitors, and the population at risk is potentially huge.

Worldwide, up to 70 million workers are at risk for computer vision syndrome, and those numbers are only likely to grow. In a report about the condition written by eye care specialists in Nigeria and Botswana and published in Medical Practice and Reviews, the authors detail an expanding list of professionals at risk — accountants, architects, bankers, engineers, flight controllers, graphic artists, journalists, academicians, secretaries and students — all of whom “cannot work without the help of computer.”

And that’s not counting the millions of children and adolescents who spend many hours a day playing computer games.

Studies have indicated 70 percent to 90 percent of people who use computers extensively, whether for work or play, have one or more symptoms of computer vision syndrome. The effects of prolonged computer use are not just vision-related. Complaints include neurological symptoms like chronic headaches and musculoskeletal problems like neck and back pain … eye symptoms, low back pain, tension headache and psychosocial stress.

Still, the most common computer-related complaint involves the eyes, which can develop blurred or double vision as well as burning, itching, dryness and redness, all of which can interfere with work performance.

There’s much more at the link, including a more detailed analysis of risks and effects, and ways to help undo the damage they cause.  Recommended reading.

Interestingly, I’m finding that strength training is helping me to overcome one problem associated with computer vision syndrome.  I was developing a very pronounced “hunchback” type of hump behind my neck, caused by craning forward to see text on a computer screen through tired eyes.  Weight training has helped to straighten my neck and improve my posture, so that in three months the “hump” is more than half gone.  I reckon in another few months, it’ll have disappeared entirely – a serendipitous side effect of a completely unrelated health decision.



  1. I am using Ctrl+ to enlarge text on more and more websites these days. Sometimes it takes several applications of Ctrl+ to make the text large enough that it is comfortable to read.

  2. And I refuse to read blogs in white print on a black background.

    One habit I find helpful is a carryover from when I spent several hours a day working with tiny beads: I look up every few stitches (or sentences, now) and refocus on something relatively distant. Used to be the back yard, now it's a bookshelf (which, of course, carries its own hazards, but I'm usually too lazy to get up and grab that really interesting book.)

  3. Interesting!

    My vision problems are from staring at a sewing machine needle (quilting) or any close work. When my vision gets blurry I then look at the computer screen until the blurry clears up. My computer screen is over, arms length away, however.

  4. I'm kind of surprised that a study of this issue only has one sentence on resolution. "Make sure, too, that your monitor has a high-resolution display that provides sharper type and crisper images." This is THE single item that will influence eye fatigue more than anything else. The old CRT monitor's resolutions were horrible (640×480 or worse) and caused me terrible eye fatigue and worsening vision over a period of years. With the advent of LED LCD Technology with resolutions of 1920×1080, 1920×1200, 2560×1440, and going up to 4K (3840×2160) and higher (Microsoft's new Surface Studio is 4500×3000), the eye strain I used to experience is basically gone. With the pixel count of 4K, you can be within 2-3 feet all day without experiencing eye fatigue. At my work we deal with 30×42 drawings all day and are working towards a paperless solution utilizing a touch-panel display with a resolution of at least 4K.

  5. Get a pair of these: gunnars.com

    I use them as my computer glasses, or another yellow tinted lense when I'm wearing contacts. They are pricy, but worth it. My eyestrain dropped enormously after getting them. Blue light is one of the things that causes eyestrain, and filtering it with a yellow lens helps enormously. Also yes, Ctrl-+ and high def monitors.

  6. As Jon said, Gunnar glasses make for a good eyestrain reducer if you either wear contacts or don't wear corrective lenses already. However, as much as I liked the Gunnars I used at a couple of LAN parties, I found that a $25 pair of yellow tinted, 1.5x magnification reading glasses available from your local drugstore does just as well.

    Gunnar justifies crazy prices by marketing to gamers and having a cool look. I'd rather keep $50 and just be efficient. No one's grading me on my fashion sense at work.

  7. I'm a former IT guy who's been through this with many people. Good posture, as mentioned earlier, is critical. Have your seat at the right height. Have the monitor at the right height – if you're developing a hunched back your monitor is too low. Wear the correct glasses. If you need a separate pair of glasses for VDU work then so be it. Your eyes are worth it. Also try putting your monitor into portrait mode, which will encourage up and down head and neck movement. Having more than one monitor will encourage lateral head and neck movement. And take a 5 minute break from the VDU every hour. Go make yourself a cup of tea or do some filing.

    I've got to disagree with Aaron and Jon. If you're getting glare from the monitor you should fix the monitor. Start by turning the brightness and contrast down. Many monitors ship in show-room mode with one or both turned way up. You may also be able to alter many other settings on the monitor. You can buy calibration tools. Do it right and your eyes will thank you. And buy the right monitor for the job. There are three basic types of monitor: TN, VA, and IPS. There's a brief explanation here. Back in the days of CRT monitors, high refresh rates (greater than 60 Hz; I used to need 70+ Hz) were good. The same applies to LCD monitors, though to a much lesser extent unless you play games.

    Look (ahem), you all know about mice and RSI, don't you? You take care of your hands because of it, don't you? The rest of your body is just as important and just as vulnerable.

    With regard to beadwork and stitching, IIRC blindness used to be more frequent in seamstresses and tailors because they stressed their eyes so much with the fine work.

    I'm sure there's lots of stuff I've not mentioned but it's been a few years and what I've said should be a good start.

  8. Yeah, the reason I go for the gunnars is not the cool look, although I do use them for gaming as well. They have an option for prescription lenses. That is what made all the difference.

    I'm now wearing contacts most of the time and using a +1.75 pair from readers.com. Very nice. I still will get a new pair of gunnars soon to fit my new prescription for those days that I don't want to put in contacts or allergies are making it unpleasant to wear them.

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