If you spend any length of time in front of a computer, you've probably experienced some form of eye strain, vision headaches or other stress in your visual system.
And you're not alone. According to the American Optometric Association, upwards of 8 out of 10 computer users report some type of eye strain at the computer. The problem is so prevalent it's been given a name: Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).
The symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome include:
- eyes hurting or over-tired
- eyes burning or itching
- dry, or watery, eyes
- double vision
- blurry eyesight (either at the computer or in the distance)
- the need for glasses for the first time
- the need for stronger prescriptions
- headaches, neck, shoulder and back tension
- increased sensitivity to light
Using a computer does place a unique set of demands on your eyes. But it's not inevitable for your eyes to hurt at the computer, or for you to experience eye strain at the computer, once you know how to use your eyes correctly for the task, and what to do at the first sign of tension or fatigue.
Saving your eyesight at the computer can be as simple as being aware of your vision in a new way. Knowing visual ergonomics and the simple keys to healthy computing should go a long way to alleviating the symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome.
Here are five keys to taking care of your eyes at the computer.
1. Fit your set up to you: (fig. 1)
- Set up your computer so that you can look beyond the screen. If at all possible, don't be in the corner, or face a wall.
- Sit directly in front of computer, not off to one side or the other.
- Sit 18-24 inches away from the screen
- Sit high enough so that your line of sight is level with or higher than the top of the screen
- Keep your wrists level with or below your elbows. Never bend your wrists up when typing
- Your knees should be below the level of your hips
- Place your feet on the floor. Use a footrest if your feet don't reach the floor.
2. Look away from the screen regularly.
Focusing on an object far away, such as the water cooler down the hall or a tree outdoors, is a simple stretching exercise for eye muscles. Quickly shift your focus from near to far 3-4 times.
A brief look into the distance every 2 to 3 minutes prevents the build-up of visual stress and discomfort and keeps your eyes healthy and active.
These frequent micro-breaks offer much more relief to your eyes than an hourly break. A break every hour - however long it might be - does not provide all the relief and rest that your eyes need. Micro-breaks are more effective and beneficial.