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The Eyes Have IT

Category Technology

Better ways of viewing computer screens can reduce eye strain and increase productivity.

Regardless of occupation, we all spend an inordinate amount of time staring at computer, laptop or smartphone screens. The result is often eye strain known clinically as computer vision syndrome (CVS). Researchers suggest that between 50% and 90% of individuals who work with monitors for more than two hours a day suffer some form of symptom.

Shifting Focus

Working in front of a computer monitor stresses the eye muscles because our eyes move across the screen in the same way over and over again. Regardless of whether your eyes are jumping between screens or moving between the screen and a document on your desk, your eye muscles become fatigued. The need of the eyes to constantly shift focus and direction plus the monitor’s flickering, contrast, and glare just adds to the stress on the eye that creates eye strain.

The Age Factor

Eye stress is also affected by age. As individuals move past 40, there is a noticeable degradation in the ability to focus on close objects. This change (called presbyopia) is a normal aging process that can usually be compensated for with eyeglasses, contact lenses, or surgery. If you do not correct presbyopia, you will be bothered by headaches and eye strain. Constant use of monitors without appropriate compensations increases problems with colour perception, blurred vision, double vision, dryness, red eyes, eye irritation, headaches, neck or back pain.

Correctly position the monitor.

Relieving the Symptoms

Experts indicate the following processes are helpful for reducing CVS:

  • Correctly position the monitor. The best position is straight ahead and tilted slightly down. This reduces the need to force the eye muscles to pull the eye up. The top of the computer monitor should not be higher than the level of your eyes.
  • Blink more. Those working with monitors blink five times per minute versus a normal blink rate of
    12 times per minute. Thus, the eye does not produce the tears that help prevent inflammation by keeping open the oil-secreting glands in the eyelids.
  • Place the monitor (including your smartphone) from 45 to 76 centimetres (18-30 inches) away from your eyes and tilt your screen to avoid glare from overhead lights. Glare creates eye strain.
  • Close the blinds, reduce back and side light and consider a matte screen filter.
  • Consider using computer eyeware. There are numerous and conflicting articles as to whether “computer glasses” designed to better read the monitor and to reduce the blue light emanating from the screen are beneficial. Check with your optometrist as to whether there would be any benefit in having prescription “computer glasses” before buying those online bargains.
  • Give your eyes a rest. The Mayo clinic suggests observing the 20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes look at an object that is at least 20 feet (six metres) away for 20 seconds to relieve the stress on the eye muscles and thereby reduce the progression of nearsightedness (i.e., the inability to see far-away objects clearly)
  • Consider changing the monitor’s display settings. Increasing the font size will reduce eye strain as will changing the contrast level on the monitor. Believe it or not, the best setting for using a monitor is the tried-and-true black text on a white background. Reducing the monitor’s brightness level to replicate a standard piece of office paper is a preferred standard. For those using more than one monitor, ensure that both are matched to the same settings.
  • Size counts. Buy a monitor that is at least 19 inches with anti-reflective surfaces. If within the budget, upgrade monitors to UHD.
  • Reduce “visual noise.” Blue light is what makes the screen look better, but it is also harder on the eyes. The Canadian Association of Optometrists states:

Computer screens and other digital devices emit significant amounts of blue light and people are spending more and more hours looking at them. The high energy blue-light waves scatter more in the eye and [the eye] is not as easily focused. This scatter creates “visual noise” that reduces contrast and can contribute to digital eye strain.

The solution is to reduce the blue light emitting from the screen by reducing the brightness.

Eye Management

At the moment, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that constantly staring at monitors has any long-term impact on vision. However, from a productivity standpoint, eye strain and its accompanying maladies affect daily performance. To improve performance, owner-managers should review their computer location, office lighting and the other factors noted above to create a more comfortable and effective work environment. In addition, staff should be encouraged to have annual eye examinations and create work schedules that include breaks to reduce time staring at the computer.