As the world responds to the impact of COVID – 19 on businesses necessitating diverse response approaches including the activation of business continuity strategy -remote work- to engage workers to discharge their responsibilities from the comfort of their homes, new risks emerge. One of such risks is Computer Vision Syndrome.
COMPUTER VISION SYNDROME (CVS)
The invention of the computer and advancements in information technology has absolutely transformed our society and work over the past three decades. While this has been largely beneficial it is not without the attendant health related problems. The recent widespread lock downs necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an increase in screen time for most persons in order to achieve social distancing. Video calls with loved ones, video conferences for meetings, webinars, other on-line training, on-line school, the recent deluge of pictures, videos and information about the new disease has added significantly to the time usually spent at the computer. This is likely to increase the risk of computer-related health problems.
WHAT IS COMPUTER VISION SYNDROME?
Computer vision syndrome (CVS), also known as Digital Eye Strain is described by the American Optometric Association as a group of eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer, tablet, e-reader and cell phone use. That is, eye problems that is caused by prolonged exposure to digital screens! It is characterized by visual symptoms which result from interface with computer display or its environment.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF COMPUTER VISION SYNDROME?
The more common symptoms of CVS include burning or gritty sensation in the eye, redness, blurred vision, dry eyes, headaches, neck and shoulder pain. Individuals experience these problems when viewing digital screens for prolonged periods and the level of discomfort from these symptoms is directly related to the amount of digital screen use. These symptoms are usually temporary and go away after the work day or once the eyes have been rested. However, they may recur or worsen without intervention.
WHAT CAUSES COMPUTER VISION SYNDROME?
CVS symptoms are caused by prolonged periods at a computer and an unsupportive environment. Reading from a computer is quite different from reading a printed page. Book prints are solid with well-defined edges while characters on a digital screen have less contrast and definition. This makes it difficult for the eyes to maintain focus on screen images therefore the muscles around the eyes have to do more work leading to the eye pain, fatigue, blurred vision and redness. Also, a lot of people blink less while staring at the computer which could result dry eyes from excessive exposure of the eyeball and lack of bathing in tears.
Having uncorrected vision problems like short-sightedness, far-sightedness and astigmatism can increase the severity of CVS symptoms. Individuals with corrected vision problems may find that their eyeglass or contact lens may not be suitable for viewing on a screen for many reasons including glare and dryness.
Inadequate workplace ergonomics contribute to musculoskeletal symptoms such as neck stiffness, pain, headache, backache and shoulder pain. Poor lighting, glare on a digital screen from lights reflecting from in, improper viewing distances, improper placement of computer screen and poor seating posture can all cause muscle sprain.
HOW IS COMPUTER VISION SYNDROME TREATED?
Prevention is the most important approach to the management of CVS. This can be achieved through environmental factor modifications and eye care.
- Practice the 20-20-20 rule: take a 20-second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes.
- Blinking regularly to keep the front of eyeballs moist and prevent dry eyes.
- Rest breaks; rest your eyes for 15 minutes after using the computer for 2 hours.
- See an eye doctor for possible correction of vision problems if present.
- Natural tears can also be prescribed if dry eyes present
- Computer eyeglasses with antireflective coating
Environmental factor modifications
- Bright lights, window and overhead fluorescent lights contribute to glare.
- Position the computer to avoid glare from overhead light
- Cover windows with drapes
- Adjust the intensity of lighting in the room to be suitable for users.
- People aged >50 require brighter lighting than young
- Screen brightness and contrast should be adjusted to provide balance with room lighting and maximum visibility.
- Antiglare screen filters can help reduce the amount of light reflected from screen
- Proper workstation adjustment
Family Physician based in Lagos, Nigeria.