What is Computer Vision Syndrome?

Dr. Russel Lazarus, March 7, 2021
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About 70% of computer users suffer from eye strain, known as ‘Computer Vision Syndrome’.

If you suffer from fatigue, headaches, migraines or lose attention easily when using a computer, you most probably are experiencing a very common visual problem.

Nearly 60% of Americans use some kind of digital device — computer, phones, tablets, TV — for 5 hours a day, at least. All that screen time can result in blurred vision, dryness, eye strain, or eye irritation.

These symptoms have become so common that researchers have created a name for it: Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), this is caused by a vision problem known as Near Point Visual Stress.

If you think you may have computer vision syndrome visit an eye doctor for an eye exam. 

The Find an Eye Doctor directory provides a list of eye doctors near you that can conduct eye exams which can help detect any underlying visual problems.

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What is computer vision syndrome?

Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is an eye condition caused by staring at a digital device, especially after many hours, this condition is characterized by dry eyes, headaches or eye strain.

With more people studying and working at home, eye doctors are reporting a significant rise in the number of adults and children with these symptoms.

CVS is most prevalent with computers and typically occurs when looking at a screen at arm’s length or closer.

Symptoms of CVS

If you are experiencing any of the following, it is recommended to make an appointment with an eye doctor experienced in CVS:

  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Dry eye
  • Migraines
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Itchy eyes
  • Red or watery eyes
  • Headaches
  • Neck and shoulder pain

Most of these symptoms are temporary. When you stop using a digital device the symptoms lessen might reduced significantly or go away altogether.

However, if these symptoms start to impact your work you may have a serious visual problem.

The severity of symptoms may vary depending on:

  • How long the computer or digital device was used for
  • Underlying eye problems
  • Other factors that cause CVS

Symptoms may get worse, if the problem is not resolved.

Using a computer or digital device for a long time can also lead to other symptoms, such as neck and shoulder pain. This happens because of poor alignment and posture when using a computer or digital device.

Causes and Risks factors of CVS

For many reasons, reading text on a digital device is often harder for the eyes than reading printed text. This is why working on a computer for a few hours might cause eye problems, but reading a book may not.

Several factors help to cause computer vision syndrome, such as:

  • Poor lighting
  • Poor posture while using a computer
  • Screen glare
  • Uncorrected vision problems
  • Viewing a computer at the wrong distance and angle
  • A combination of these things

People often blink less when using a computer than when reading printed text. This can cause dry eye or eye strain.

You may be at greater risk for CVS when at a computer or on a digital device if you:

  • Are too close to the screen
  • Don’t take breaks while you are working
  • Spend a few hours a day on one of these devices
  • Have eye problems not corrected with glasses or contact lenses
  • Have bad posture while using one of these devices
  • Have a pair of glasses that is not suitable for viewing the distance of your computer
  • View the screen at the wrong angle

Diagnosis of CVS

An eye doctor will make a diagnosis by viewing a patient’s health history and an eye exam. The doctor will assess if any medicines, environmental factors or health problems might be adding to the symptoms.

A patient’s sharpness of vision and how well the eyes work together and focus will be tested.

A functional vision exam is often required to assess the visual skills such as focusing, eye tracking and depth perception.

Ways to prevent CVS

Luckily, some minor adjustments can be made to reduce the effects of CVS CVS.

However, if your symptoms remain it is important to make an appointment with an eye doctor.

  1. Blink often and take breaks. Follow the 20-20-20 rule to prevent staring at a screen for too long. Take a break from the computer or device for 20 seconds, every 20 minutes, and look at something 20 feet away.
  2. Adjust the angle. Make sure the screen is 20-28 inches from the eyes and that the center of the screen is 4-8 inches lower than eye level.
  3. Use a cool-air humidifier. A humidifier adds moisture to the air, so eyes don’t dry out as quickly.
  4. Reduce glare. Eyes work harder to read when there is a glare reflecting off a screen. Make sure the screen is positioned in a way that prevents glare from windows or lighting. A glare filter can be added to the screen to prevent glare as well.

If you believe you have CVS, contact an eye doctor near you to schedule an appointment, so that you can receive treatment to alleviate any symptoms you may be experiencing.