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Every day, 82 percent of Americans spend at least12 hours looking at a digital screen, either on a computer, an electronic display, or television. As our lives become increasing filled with technology, requiring us to view text and images on a computer screen, we are submitting our eyes to additional strain. While these devices help to improve efficiency and effectiveness, many are beginning to experience side effects from over use.  The American Optometric Association (AOA) continues to see an increased rise in vision impairment as a result of overuse of computers, a preventable condition known as Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).

So what is Computer Vision Syndrome? It is a group of eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer use. Many individuals experience eye discomfort and vision problems when viewing a computer screen for extended periods, and the level of discomfort appears to increase with the amount of computer use. The most common symptoms of “CVS” are headaches, fatigue, dry eyes and blurred vision. The symptoms are made worse with poor lighting, glare, uncorrected vision problems, poor seating posture and work distance from your computer screen. The visual symptoms are the main reason why “CVS” is one of the top health complaints in the workplace.

So what can be done to alleviate “CVS?” First, a yearly eye health examination is critical to correct any refractive problems such as farsightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia. All of these contribute to problems with focusing at near distances. During an annual visit, the eye doctor also assesses eye coordination abilities and aging of the eyes, which can lead to increased visual problems when using a computer. Also, a physician can suggest the correct distance for placement of a computer screen and prescribe eyewear, or “computer glasses,” specific for that viewing distance. Ensuring that the lenses block ultraviolet light (UV) and have an anti-reflection treatment will also help considerably reduce glare from the computer screen and overhead lighting.

In some cases, people who do not normally wear eyeglasses may benefit from glasses prescribed specifically for computer use. In addition, those already wearing glasses may find their current prescription does not provide optimal vision for viewing a computer.

Also, limiting the duration of computer use helps minimize “CVS” as well. Apply the “20/20” rule – look away from the computer every 20 minutes for 20 seconds – as this will minimize focusing problems and eye irritation caused by infrequent blinking. Blinking helps keep the front surface of the eye moist, which improves ocular comfort.

Computer Vision Syndrome can affect people in different ways. Having an annual eye health exam will help in the prevention and diagnosis of “CVS.” CVS does not mean a person has to entirely abandon their favorite electronic devices or drastically reduce the amount of time they are in front of a computer. It simply means that, with a few tips or preventive measures, we can enjoy our favorite video game or finish that next ebook without discomfort or damage to our future health.

Dr. Florian Saffner is Visionworks Chief Vision Officer and leads the company’s vision health and education awareness programs.  Dr. Safner has participated in Gift of Sight missions to the citizens of various underserved areas in the USA and Puerto Rico and an international Gift of Sight mission to Northern Africa. He is a long standing member of the American Optometric Association. To learn more visit skilled optometrists and ophthalmologists at Visionworks locations across the country and private eye specialists, can provide proper treatment to combat CVS and promote healthy vision practices.