Screen-staring can cause computer vision syndrome

By Shayna Brouker • Published: May 9th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

You’ve been slaving over that report for hours now, switching between squinting at words on a computer screen and pounding the keyboard. You take breaks to check your phone or watch a funny video on the Internet, but by three in the afternoon, you’ve got a headache and blurry vision. It could be the normal afternoon slump, or you could be suffering from a new condition called computer vision syndrome, or C-V-S.

The marvels of modern technology may be leaving desk workers, technology junkies and TV addicts alike with a serious side effect from staring at a digital screen all day. Ninety percent of people who spend two or more hours every day with their eyes glued to a screen, be it computer monitor, smart phone or even an e-reader, could be affected by C-V-S. Symptoms include blurry vision, headaches and dry eyes.

So why do screens cause such stress for peepers? Our eyes naturally focus on three-dimensional images better than two-dimensional ones, like words on a screen. We also tend to blink much less when concentrating on a digital screen, reducing lubrication and causing dry, itchy eyes.

The problems can grow over a time period as short as a few days to a few months, and could even cause long-term nearsightedness. But a few remedies can stop C-V-S before it strikes.

Optometrists recommend the twenty-twenty-twenty rule: Look away from your screen every twenty minutes for twenty seconds at an object twenty feet away. Our eyes’ natural focus is twenty feet away and muscles become strained when they must constantly focus on something two feet away — the typical distance from viewer to electronic device. Make sure you eyes are level with the top of the monitor and fit your screen with an antiglare cover.

And if nothing else, remember to simply blink. A few quick fixes can keep your peepers protected.