A recent study has highlighted a new, thus far unrecognized condition that potentially affects millions of people all over the world, called Computer Vision Syndrome.
The condition could affect up to 70 million workers globally if they spend more than three hours a day sat in front of a computer, and this eye strain can have a detrimental impact on their work performance as well.
The report, authored by eye care specialists from Botswana and Nigeria, was published in the journal Medical Practice and Reviews, and claims that between 70 and 90 percent of those who use computers frequently may have one or more of the condition’s symptoms. Those symptoms include: tension headaches, double vision, dry eyes and redness, eye fatigue and other symptoms of eye strain. The report’s authors, Tope Raymond Akinbinu of Nigeria and Y. J. Mashalla of Botswana, say these symptoms can pop up after just three hours of using a computer.
The problems stems from people’s tendency to blink less while using a computer, the authors say. In normal circumstances, people blink around 17 times a minute, but when using a computer this is reduced to just 12-15 blinks per minute.
“Unlike words printed on a page that have sharply defined edges, electronic characters, which are made up of pixels, have blurred edges, making it more difficult for eyes to maintain focus. Unconsciously, the eyes repeatedly attempt to rest by shifting their focus to an area behind the screen, and this constant switch between screen and relaxation point creates eyestrain and fatigue,” the New York Times says in its analysis of the report.
The good news is that those who have no choice but to sit in front of a computer all day can do something to alleviate the symptoms. The authors suggest maintaining a good distance (around 20-26 inches) away from the computer screen to help their eyes focus. They also recommend keeping your eyes lubricated and consciously blinking as often as you can. When looking straight ahead keep the center of the monitor about four to eight inches lower than the eyes to minimize dryness and itching.
Additionally, researchers say you should keep the screen brighter than any ambient light, as this can cause eye strain due to glare on the screen. Finally, ophthalmologists recommend following the “20-20-20” rule – every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and look at something that’s 20 feet away.