- You've just put in a 10-hour day, most
of it in front of a computer screen. Your eyes feel hot and tired and you've
got a headache. Your vision may be blurry.
- It's a familiar scenario and it's got
a name: Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).
- Despite the large numbers of Americans
affected by long hours at a computer " an estimated 15 million "
few have heard of CVS.
- Occasional signs of eye strain are normal.
But if symptoms multiply, affecting comfort and productivity, you may have
- "It's an insidious problem,"
explains optometrist Dr. Barry Tannen, an associate clinical professor
at the State University of New York College of Optometry.
- Just like other muscles in our body,
muscles in the eye can become tired from overuse.
- "Staring at a computer screen all
day is stressful and straining," says Ellen Kolber, an occupational
- For one thing, images on the screen aren't
solid. Rather, they are pixilated - composed of many dots that make a letter
dark at the center and fuzzy on the edges.
- "Our focusing system doesn't quite
know how to respond to that," explains Tannen.
- Eyes also get a workout focusing and
refocusing as they glance back and forth from a document to the screen.
- Glare from screens and bright office
lighting are also issues. "For computer use, over-illumination is
deadly," says Tannen. Eyes become hot and tired; some people develop
photo sensitivity that can trigger headaches.
- Computers should be illuminated from
the side, not from directly in front or back, says Kilber.
- Then there's the dry-eye problem. "A
computer is such a compelling target, we forget to blink," Tannen
says. People normally blink 14 times per minute, which helps lubricate
eyes. Computer users blink five times per minute.
- Jan Paschal, a copy editor for Reuters,
says she spends at least seven hours a day at her computer. "I've
learned to be very protective of my eyes."
- She uses an eye wash four times a day
and takes visual timeouts. "Even if I'm not taking a break away from
my desk, I look away from my screen," she says.
- Not surprisingly, a whole industry is
springing up to address CVS. Bausch & Lomb has introduced "computer
eye drops." There's even a "Computer Eyestrain Journal"
on the Web. And optometrist Dr. Dennis Ruskin from Toronto has developed
a reference manual on CVS and a software program that tells you when to