WHAT IS CVS?
Do you work in an office and look at a computer screen most of your day?
Do you spend lots of time on handheld electronic devices?
It is really important to understand the impact that is having on your eyes and vision. We did some research and wrote this to help you make an informed decision about what steps you can take to ensure your vision remains strong.
Computer Vision Syndrome
With the sharp increase of hours the average American spends daily consuming visual media, there has also been a rise in what is now called "Computer Vision Syndrome" (CVS) or "Digital Eye Strain" (DES).
Whether you are gazing into a smartphone, tablet or computer screen, each instance we take a look at a screen presents a unique challenge for our eyes. The American Optometric Association (AMA) defines the problem this way: "Computer Vision Syndrome, also referred to as Digital Eye Strain, describes a group of eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer, tablet, e-reader and cell phone use."
Tech writer Mickey Meese, in a March 2012 N.Y. Times article, reported that, "with 31 percent of those over 18 saying that, on average, they now spend at least five hours a day on a computer, tablet or smartphone, it appears that these symptoms will only become more common." More recent studies have indicated that prolonged use on these platforms has increased to 7 to 8 hours per day for the average American and that doesn't include the time we're watching TV (though it may already include TV ‘viewing’ since many networks allow for viewing programs across several platforms including smartphones).
The same AMA article states that, "In most cases, symptoms of CVS or Digital Eye Strain occur because the visual demands of the task exceed the visual abilities of the individual to comfortably perform them. At greatest risk for developing CVS or Digital Eye Strain are those persons who spend two or more continuous hours at a computer or using a digital screen device every day."
That being the case, it seems like many people today are likely candidates for experiencing some kind of CVS symptoms which could include things like blurred vision, dry eyes and eye strain (not to mention headaches and neck and shoulder pain caused by trying to find an optimal position to view the screen and accomplish the rest of our work). Oftentimes we can't avoid these symptoms because of the nature and conditions of our work.
So what can we do to prevent CVS?
One way to combat digital eye strain is by using what the AMA calls the 20-20-20 Rule. This means taking a 20 second break every 20 minutes by looking at something 20 feet away.
Some tech manufactures, realizing our culture's increased screen usage, have developed built-in helps to reduce the strain on our media-saturated eyes. In recent years, Apple, for example, has included features on their iOS operating system that help to reduce eye strain - Night Shift and True Tone. Night Shift reduces the amount of blue light at a set time during the evening when we are most likely to be viewing our phones in darkness, total or otherwise. The True Tone setting senses the kind of light around you at different places during the day and then adjusts the screen color and brightness accordingly to match your specific lighting environment.
Proper posture and other habits, especially when seated using a computer screen, can also help reduce symptoms of CVS. Variables like positioning of the computer screen and room lighting will either improve or adversely affect the impact on your eyes. Using an anti-glare screen and forced blinking to maintain eye moisture will also help you as you gaze into that screen for extended periods of time.
Computer Screen Lenses
These options certainly help reduce the strain on your eyes, but you still may need special lenses designed for extended use. The AMA says, "Even people who have an eyeglass or contact lens prescription may find it's not suitable for the specific viewing distances of their computer screen." Having a special set of glasses for the home or work office may provide just the relief you need to maintain a healthier set of eyes. The extra expense might just be worth it. Meese emphasizes that, “the glasses people use for driving or the ones they use for reading books often have the wrong focal point for computer use or are ill-suited for computer use.”
What should you do?
If you are using a computer screen on a regular basis, strongly consider getting special lenses.
As we become more dependent on handheld technology, the amount of time we spend looking at screens in general will only increase the strain on our already taxed eyes. If you work in front of screens during most of the day, you will want to take extra care to prevent CVS/DES, so you can enjoy a long life with healthy eyes for the times you aren't looking into screens but rather when you are in the company of the special people in your life.