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Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS)
Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention

Tuesday, September 07, 2010
By Anne Kramer

We all know that working in front of a computer for extended periods of time without taking a break can be hazardous to your health. Most commonly, uninterrupted computer work is associated with neck strain, carpal tunnel, and back problems. Anyone who has worked 8 hours in front of a screen can tell you these aren’t the only maladies that can come from office work; no, they’re likely to tell you about the discomfort in their eyes as well.

While there are a few medical problems that can arise from focusing on a computer screen for too long, the one which encapsulates most of their symptoms, and incidentally the one which arises the most often is Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). Simply put, CVS is the condition that results from focusing one’s eyes on a computer screen for protracted, uninterrupted periods of time.

Allowing CVS to go untreated can result in permanent damage to the eyes. This is why we at wanted to publish an article that would help familiarize our readers with the causes, symptoms, and prevention of Computer Vision Syndrome. The sooner you can recognize a potentially vision-threatening problem, the sooner you are able to address it.

Causes of Computer Vision Syndrome

  • Low Contrast: This is not a new concept for most people. The pixilated nature of the objects on a computer screen engenders low contrast. This is especially true of text on computer screen. Studying objects of low contrast causes eye strain, which can lead to CVS.
  • Prolonged Use: Most people work 8-9 hour days. Even if you take a 1 hour lunch break, this still leaves 3.5-4 hour periods during which you are staring at a computer screen. Extended viewing of a computer screen (over 2 hours), especially at a constant depth of field, is the primary cause of CVS.
  • Reduced Eye Movement: During activities in which they are not focused on a computer screen, the average person blinks about 16 times per minute. While looking at a computer screen however, this drops to 6 times per minute. In addition, they eye moves through a lesser range of motion when concentrating on a screen. This reduction in eye movement serves to dehydrate the eye, which can, among other things, lead to CVS.
  • Backlit Screens: Computer screens are “backlit”, meaning the light that illuminates the screen shines directly into your eyes. Most every other source of light we incur is first reflected off an object, entering our eyes at a lower amplitude. Staring at direct sources of light is hazardous, and can lead to CVS.

Symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome

While the symptoms of CVS can vary, the most commonly observed indications include: eyestrain, dry or burning eyes, blurred vision, headaches, and double-vision.

*This list is not exhaustive, and NOT intended to diagnose any disorder. If you suspect you have CVS, see your doctor.*

Prevention of Computer Vision System

For as serious as some of the effects of CVS can be, prevention of the condition is surprisingly easy. If you work in front of a computer screen on a daily basis, take these simple steps to avoid CVS and other eye-related problems.

  • Take a Break: Staring at a screen for an extended period of time is the leading cause of CVS. If you must work an entire day in front of the computer, make sure you take at least a 5 minute break every hour, and allow your eyes to relax. Looking out the window works great here.
  • Increase the Contrast: Modern computers have display adjustments either on the screen, in the “control panel” of the operating system, or both. Using these controls to increase the contrast of your computer monitor can make looking at the screen much easier on your eyes.
  • Blink: Making a conscious effort to blink more often while working at the computer will build a healthy habit sure to make your workday more comfortable. As you begin this exercise, use eye drops to help keep your eyes hydrated.
CVS can turn your otherwise enjoyable job into a nightmare. If you spend most of your workday in front of a computer, remember these helpful tips to recognize the symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome, and prevent its onset.

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