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Computer Eyestrain – Computer Vision Syndrome

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Worker Productivity and Computer Vision Syndrome +

Since 43% of adults work at jobs that require prolonged use of a computer, tablet or other digital devices, computer vision syndrome (CVS) and blue light exposure are becoming increasingly serious threats to our vision, health and productivity.

Computer Vision Syndrome in the Workplace
Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), also known as digital eye strain, is an increasingly common condition felt by those that spend two or more hours daily in front of a screen. Symptoms can include blurred vision, eye strain and fatigue, headaches, dry, red, irritated eyes, neck and back pain and headaches. Typically the symptoms of CVS are not permanent, however they can have an impact on comfort, productivity and one’s ability to focus. In rare cases, CVS can even be debilitating.

Studies show that symptoms of computer vision syndrome have become the most common workplace complaint or injury among workers with 50-90% of computer users reporting symptoms to some degree. These symptoms have been shown to have an impact on worker productivity.

The Effects of CVS on Productivity
In a study which looked at the correlation between computer vision and workplace productivity performed at the School of Optometry at the University of Alabama at Birmingham correlations were found between proper vision correction and overall productivity as well as the time it takes for a worker to complete a task. Even minor and unnoticeable vision problems were shown to affect productivity by up to 20% and to cause an increase in mistakes.

Blue Light Exposure
Blue light or high-energy visible (HEV) radiation exposure is another effect of extended digital device use. Excessive blue light exposure has been linked to sleep cycle disturbance – which can have an overall negative impact on alertness and one’s ability to focus. Blue light may also cause long term damage to the retina. While studies are currently being done to determine the effects of blue light, it is clear that protecting your eyes from blue light is recommended for eye health.

Workspace Ergonomics and Computer Eyewear
From both the worker’s and the employer’s perspectives, an investment in a combination of workspace ergonomics and computer eyewear can benefit the workplace and overall productivity. Workers will be more productive and experience fewer visual and musculoskeletal symptoms that can cause discomfort and distraction. Employers will benefit from productivity gains and reduced worker’s compensation claims.

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Children and Computer Vision Syndrome +

The use of computers, tablets and other digital devices has become so commonplace in the daily lives of children that a report by The Vision Council in 2015 showed that close to 25% of children spend more than 3 hours a day using some sort of digital device. These numbers are only expected to grow. As these devices are becoming integrated into schools and becoming more common for use at a younger age, many experts and parents are wondering how the use of these devices can affect children’s eyes in the short and long term.

Computer Vision Syndrome (aka Digital Eye Strain)

Just like adults, children are susceptible to computer vision syndrome (CVS), also called digital eye strain, after extended use of computers or digital devices. Symptoms of CVS include eye fatigue and eye strain, dry eyes, headaches, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain.

Staring at a computer screen is a stress for the eyes, particularly for children whose eyes and visual system are less developed. This is because the computer-generated, pixelated images which appear on the screen are not what our eyes are accustomed to and therefore can cause the eye to strain after extended viewing. Some children find it uncomfortable to view screens for long periods because they simply don’t have the focusing power to spend extended amounts of time looking at these pixelated images.

Children don’t always have the self control to limit computer use or the awareness to know when they are experiencing eye fatigue or other symptoms of CVS. Because of this, they are more likely to overuse digital devices which can make symptoms worse.

Screen Use and Myopia

Myopia or nearsightedness is a growing concern as studies show the incidences of the condition are growing exponentially. In the past it was thought that myopia was primarily genetic, however recent research indicates a correlation between environmental factors and the growing exposure to and use of digital devices, particularly in children. As children increase their computer use and time spent on screen, the likelihood of developing myopia seems to also be increasing. According to a study done at the University of California at Berkeley School of Optometry which researched the incidence of myopia in 253 children between 6 years old and 10 years old showed a link with the amount of time spent on a computer.

The Effects of Blue Light

Blue light or high-energy visible (HEV) light is emitted from digital devices and is causing greater and greater concerns about long term exposure. It is already known that blue light can affect sleep and concentration but studies are also indicating that it can cause long term retinal damage, particularly in kids whose young eye have more sensitivity to environmental influences.

How to Protect Your Children from CVS

With the increasing use of and dependence upon digital devices it is important to teach your children good habits to protect their eyes while they are young. Understanding the risks and dangers of prolonged screen time should be taught at an early age. Here are some tips for safe computer and digital device use to reduce digital eye strain and prevent the negative effects it can have on your children’s eyes and vision.

  1. Limit Screen Time: When possible limit screen time to one or two hours a day, particularly for little children who don’t require computers for school work.
  2. Optimize Your Children’s Work Station: Ensure that children are positioned properly and that lighting is appropriate so that they do not have to bend or stretch in unnatural ways to see the screen adequately. The monitor should be slightly below the child’s eye line and about 18 – 28 inches away. The chair should also be adjusted so that the child’s arms comfortably rest on the desk and his or her feet touch the floor (when possible).
  3. Have Regular Eye Exams: Monitor your child’s eyesight, particularly an assessment of their near vision skills.
  4. Follow the 20-20-20 Rule: Every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to look at something at least 20 feet away.
  5. Get in the Habit of Stretching: At regular intervals stretch the back, arms, shoulders and neck to relieve tension and reduce strain or soreness.
  6. Consider Computer Glasses: Computer glasses are made to help the eyes focus more easily on the computer screen. If your child already wears prescription eyewear, prescription computer glasses are available as well.
  7. Anti-glare: Anti-glare screens or coatings on eyeglasses can reduce glare and eye strain.
  8. Look for signs of eye or vision problems such as blurred vision or eye rubbing, redness or a stiff neck. If you notice any lasting vision problems see your eye doctor for an examination.

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Blue Light/High-Energy Visible (HEV) Light and Your Eyes +

According to recent studies, 60% of people spend as much as 6 hours a day in front of a digital device whether it is a computer, tablet, smartphone or other gadget. All of these devices emit blue light or high-energy visible (HEV) light, which is a known cause of computer vision syndrome, sleep disruptions and possibly other potential dangers to the eyes. Blue light radiation is also emitted from television screens, electronic devices. fluorescent and LED lighting and yes, even the sun.

What is Blue Light?

Emitted from the sun, blue light is naturally occurring in the world around us. On the spectrum of visible light (light that humans can see), blue light has the highest energy and the shortest wavelength. It is also sometimes known as blue-violet or violet light, which is where ultraviolet (UV) light rays that are just beyond our perception get their name. Much like ultraviolet light, blue light has both dangers and benefits to our health, particularly to our eyes.

What are the Potential Dangers of Blue Light?

Research is still being done to determine the long-term effects of blue light or high-energy visible (HEV) light emission, however it is known is that blue light is a cause of computer vision syndrome (CVS) and sleep disruptions.

Eye Strain

The high energy and shorter wavelengths of blue or HEV light emit a less consistent flow of light, creating a glare or flickering that can cause eye strain. Because sharpness and visual contrast are affected by this, the eyes have to work harder to see clearly. After extended periods of time this can result in headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and mental and physical fatigue.

Sleep Disruptions

Natural blue light in the atmosphere is known to help regulate the body’s circadian rhythm (which controls your sleep cycles), to boost your mood and level of alertness and to improve memory and cognitive function. However, prolonged exposure to artificial sources of blue light has been shown to reverse these positive effects, causing disruptions in the circadian rhythm which affects sleep, as well as an increased risk of depression. Studies show that using a digital device before bedtime can negatively impact ther amount and quality of your sleep.

Macular Degeneration

Researchers at Harvard University have shown that over time, prolonged exposure to blue light can cause damage to the retina at the back of your eye, which may lead to age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and possibly other serious health and vision problems. AMD is a leading cause of vision loss and low vision.

How Can You Protect Yourself from Blue Light Emissions?

As the dangers of blue light from digital devices emerge, more and more options are becoming available to protect your eyes. The eyes have very limited natural ability to block out blue light radiation so we need to be aware of blue light exposure and how to minimize it.

Computer glasses with blue-blocking lenses, coatings and filters are a good solution for those working on a computer for long periods of time each day. You can also add anti-glare coatings with blue light protection to your regular eyeglass and sunglass lenses. Additionally, there are filters available for devices such as computers, smartphones and tablets, to reduce the amount of blue light radiation that can reach your eyes.

The easiest way to reduce blue light exposure is to take frequent breaks when working on a computer and to reduce screen time overall.

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Computer Glasses +

Digital devices have impacted our world in so many positive ways, allowing us to connect, work, play, and get information at the speed of light. In fact, many people have a hard time when they “disconnect.” But all of this good brings with it a measure of concern: Digital Eye Strain or Computer Vision Syndrome.

Nearly 70 percent of U.S. adults experience digital eye strain as a result of the growing use of computers and digital devices. Adults aged 18 to 34 report feeling eye strain at a higher rate (45%) than their older counterparts. New research also suggests that overexposure to blue light, also referred to as high-energy visible or HEV light, may contribute to vision problems such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Implications are just now being studied, but the short-term impact of digital eye strain affects individuals on a daily basis. Eye care providers are noting a steady rise in the incidence of myopia as well, which research suggests could be correlated to the increase of screen time and near focusing.

Symptoms of Digital Eye Strain include:

  • Headaches
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Sore eyes
  • Dry or watery eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Neck, shoulder or back pain

In addition to these symptoms, emerging research shows that blue light from digital devices causes sleep disturbances by interfering with the REM cycle of sleep.

As people move from their computer to their tablet to their phone, more and more of these symptoms are being seen, and in younger and younger people. Computer glasses offer a solution to reduce the strain on your eyes and your exposure to blue light radiation.

How Computer Glasses Work

Computer glasses reduce eye strain by adjusting the focus slightly so that your eyes feel like they are focusing on something further away. They also have a tint to remove the glare and block blue light from entering into your eyes.

Finding the Right Pair

There are a number of companies that make computer glasses, some that are designed for device users without a prescription or that would wear the glasses with contact lenses. Other manufacturers provide options to incorporate vision prescriptions into the lens.

When shopping for computer glasses you want to make sure you find the right pair. The eyewear should sit nicely on your face and provide a comfortable tint. Here are some of the options available:

  • Single Vision Computer Glasses: Provide the optimum lens power and field of view for viewing your computer screen without straining or leaning in to reduce symptoms of CVS. These are ideal for when the computer is at a fixed working distance, and work well if the user needs to view multiple screens at the same working distance.
  • Office Lenses or Progressive Lenses: No-line multifocal eyewear that can be made to correct near, intermediate and some distance vision with a larger intermediate zone for computer vision if indicated. Perfect for those with presbyopia which is the gradual loss of focusing ability that occurs naturally with age. Office lenses work like progressive lenses but provide a wider field of view for intermediate (1-3 m) viewing distance and near working distance (about 40 cm).
  • Blue-Blocking Lenses: Definitely recommended for this electronic age, blue-blocking lenses block blue light emitted from computer screens that is associated with glare, eye strain and possible sleep disturbances.
  • Anti-glare and filtering coatings (treatments): Eliminate reflections from the surfaces of your lens to reduce eye strain and discomfort from glare. Some coatings can also block blue light emitted from computer screens.

While all of these are good options for protecting your eyes, the 20/20/20 rule still applies – after every 20 minutes of near tasks, look at something beyond 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds…it’s a good time to stretch the rest of the body too.

Eye exams are important to test your focusing ability, and to ensure that both eyes are working and focusing at the same place. Many people do not have the same prescription in each eye.

Children and Computer Glasses

Children are using digital devices more than ever and this trend will only continue as smartphones take over and tablet and computer-based learning increases. Their use extends well beyond the school day , as they use computers for homework and gaming and smartphones to text with their friends.

Computer glasses should be used for children proactively before eye strain begins to keep their eyes healthy longer and prevent nearsightedness.

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