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Computer vision syndrome (CVS) can develop in patients who spend three hours or more with a computer every day, and usually involves a constellation of causes, all associated with computer use. This condition presents as temporary eye strain but can become a recurring problem if the patient does not take steps to address it. Patients may also develop headaches, pain and stiffness in the neck, and fatigue as a result of the CVS. An ophthalmologist can evaluate the patient, and it may also be helpful to consult an occupational therapist to get advice on setting up work spaces to reduce the risk of CVS.
Looking at a screen can be stressful, especially when patients do it for prolonged periods of time without resting. Many workers may focus on the screen for hours at a time while working on projects, often without realizing it. Periodically blinking and refocusing on a distant object can mitigate many of the symptoms of CVS by relieving strain and giving the eyes a break. In an office with a window, a simple step like looking out the window and focusing on something in the environment every 20 minutes or so can be very helpful, while in an enclosed office, workers should look as far as possible into the distance.
Poor lighting can contribute to CVS. Glare, badly angled lights, and lights with strong blue tones can be hard on the eyes. Using full-spectrum bulbs is helpful, as is positioning lights to neutrally bathe the room without creating hot spots or glare. Adjusting screen brightness may also be beneficial. For bare bulbs, a cover can limit glare and soften the light to diffuse it, reducing eye strain. Patients may also find it helpful to improve their posture and hand position to reduce physical stress. Sometimes sitting in a poor position can also create a bad angle for viewing, forcing the eyes to work harder.
Many patients with computer vision syndrome have preexisting eye problems. They may not be aware of them, or could be lagging behind on eye exams and new prescriptions. Workers who start to notice blurry vision, difficulty focusing, dry eyes, and eye strain after working should see an ophthalmologist for an evaluation. The doctor may determine that the patient needs a new prescription for glasses, and this could relieve much of the strain. Eye drops to limit dry eye can also be helpful for CVS.
It can be difficult to remember to take breaks to rest the eyes and stretch while working. Some workers find it helpful to set up timed reminders on their computers to prompt them to take breaks. It is also important to fully take breaks as allowed by law, and to take them away from the computer, rather than checking email and websites.