What is the one thing almost every person over the age of 3 has in common? We all use computers! Most aspects of our lives involve some form of computer or device. Most people use computers at work and are attached to a smart phone for hours. We use tablets and “Kindles” to read books, watch movies and listen to music. Many children can play games and watch movies on a computer before they can even talk! But like other technological advances, we have discovered that there is a down side also. We now realize that computer use causes havoc on our visual system. In fact, the American Optometric Association has given a name to this condition: Computer Vision Syndrome. It is estimated that as many as 90% of computer users suffer from one or more symptoms of computer vision syndrome. AND, this occurs in children as well as adults! Computers also emit blue light, which we are learning can negatively affect our lives and our eyes.
Computer vision syndrome refers to a multitude of eye and vision problems that occur with long periods of computer work. The most common symptoms of computer vision syndrome are: eyestrain, headaches, neck/back ache, dry/red eyes, and blurred vision.
Eyestrain, or the technical term asthenopia, can have numerous causes.
Uncorrected refractive error such as myopia (nearsightedness), astigmatism, or hyperopia (farsightedness) is a common cause of eyestrain on the computer. Fortunately, this is an easy fix! Your Amarillo eye doctor can detect these eye problems during routine eye exams and prescribe glasses or contact lenses. During an eye exam, your eye doctor also tests for focusing difficulties, different vision between the eyes (ametropia or amblyopia, for example), and muscle imbalances or eye turns (strabismus). Everyone begins to lose the ability to focus on close objects around the age of 40. This is called presbyopia. Straining to focus becomes more and more difficult with each birthday! Computer glasses or bifocal lenses will do the work our eyes can no longer do efficiently, making computer work and reading much easier and more comfortable. So simply seeing your optometrist in Amarillo, Texas annually for routine eye exams can prevent many of the causes of eyestrain.
Headaches can be visual headaches or can be of other origins.
Visual headaches typically occur on the front of the head, begin later in the day after using your eyes a lot, are not present on waking in the morning, and are less frequent on weekends when visual demand decreases. Headaches are often the result of eyestrain from extended periods of computer work. During routine eye exams, optometrists can detect vision difficulties that may cause eyestrain and headaches. Headaches can also be caused by posture at the computer. When viewing a desktop monitor with bifocal lenses, a person must raise their chin in order to use the bifocal portion of the lens. This causes neck and back tension and often headaches. Your Amarillo optometrist can recommend special computer lenses to allow for clear monitor viewing without causing neck tension. In general, anyone with recurrent headaches should first have a complete eye examination to rule out any visual origins. If none is found, then a referral to your primary care provider is often recommended.
Dry Eyes are a very common complaint in Amarillo, Texas.
In addition to our dry environment here, add to that the fact that we tend not to blink when using a computer. Clear vision is dependent on good surface integrity of our corneas, and this is very dependent on a good tear film. Our tear film is refreshed by blinking, so if we don’t blink, our tears dry up. Our eyes then become irritated, burn, and our vision can even get blurry. Research has actually shown that the blink rate greatly decreases among computer workers as they concentrated on the screen. Computer related dry eyes is likely due to a decreased blink rate, a small viewing area resulting in limited eye movements, and looking upward to a monitor. Our eyes open wider when looking upward at the monitor. Larger eye opening allows for faster tear evaporation and more incomplete blinks. Your Amarillo optometrist can evaluate your dry eye during eye examination and recommend the best treatment regimen for you.
Blurred vision can result from a need for glasses or from dry eyes.
It can also be the result of focusing spasms from extended periods of computer work. When we look at things closer than 20 feet away, we focus our eyes. The closer it is, the more we have to focus. Beyond 20 feet, our focus should relax. However, after hours of close work, sometimes our eyes fail to relax when we look at distance. This can result in temporarily blurred vision from focusing spasms. Many researchers believe that some nearsightedness is the result of focusing spasms that eventually become a permanent state, resulting in nearsightedness. Eye examinations can rule out the need for glasses. During your eye exam, your eye doctor in Amarillo, TX can evaluate and treat any dry eyes or other conditions that may be causing you to have blurred vision. Finally, remember the 20/20/20/20 rule:
After every 20 minutes on a computer, take a 20 second break, look at an object 20 feet (or further) away and blink 20 times.
The dangers of Blue Light are becoming more well-publicized.
The need for UV protection of our skin and eyes is well known to most people. Though some sun exposure is beneficial to us, we know that too much can increase our risk of skin cancer, cataracts and macular degeneration. Likewise, some blue light is good for us. Natural blue light during daylight hours boosts attention, mood, and reaction times. But too much blue light, especially High Energy Visible (HEV) light from computers, tablets, smartphones, and televisions, can be bad for us. The effects of HEV light are cumulative, they build up over a lifetime. This blue light causes a chemical change in the retina which increases the incidence and severity of macular degeneration. This is especially of concern for seniors who have had cataract surgery. With age, our lens yellows, protecting our retina from HEV free radical damage. Once the lens is removed in cataract surgery, that protection is removed, exposing the retina. Since the effects of HEV are cumulative, protecting a child’s eyes from HEV damage is critical. New studies are also showing that late night exposure to blue light can reduce melatonin levels and throw off our biological clock, or circadian rhythm. This causes insomnia. Research indicates that poor sleep may contribute to development of cancer, heart disease, and obesity. Your optometrist can work with a qualified optician and recommend a lens product that will reduce your exposure to bad HEV light waves.
The optometrists at St. Luke Eye Institute in Amarillo, TX can perform routine eye examinations to detect and treat any components of Computer Vision Syndrome. Our certified opticians at 9th Ave. Optical can recommend lens options to minimize your exposure to harmful HEV blue light waves. Computers are a part of all of our lives. Let St. Luke Eye Institute help you avoid Computer Vision Syndrome.