'Computer vision syndrome' on the rise

Optometrists treating more patients with computer-related eye problems


FERN PARK, Fla. – Are your eyes irritated, blurry and red after a day at work? You might be one of a growing number of workers suffering from C.V.S., or computer vision syndrome.

Studies show between 50 and 90 percent of people who work at computers have at least some of the symptoms.

Staring at a computer, tablet or even a phone for long hours can lead to a variety of eye problems, including headaches, itchy, burning eyes, and in extreme cases, even permanent scarring.

Dr. Trisha Tran, of Eye Express in Fern Park, Florida, said it's a problem she sees daily. Anyone who uses a computer for more than five hours a day is at risk.

"The main complaint my patients tell me is that at the end of the day their eyes feel tired. They feel like there's more pressure in and around the eyes. They feel like their eyes are irritated or red," said Tran. "That's my first clue. Then, I usually ask them, 'Well, how many hours a day do you spend on the computer?'

"It's a product of modern times. I feel like it's an epidemic because I see it almost on a daily basis. At least half my patients come in complaining about it."

Tran said the problems stem from not blinking enough.

"The back-lighting that is on a lot of our modern-day devices overstimulate us," Tran said. "Basically, it can cause us to want to focus and not look away."

But Tran said there are a number of things we can do to help prevent eye irritation. She tells her patients to follow the 20-20-20 rule.

For every 20 minutes of computer time you should spend 20 seconds looking away at a distance of 20 feet. Tran also suggests using artificial tears sold over the counter in drug stores.

"Take artificial tears, take breaks when you can and also make sure your work environment is best for your eyes so that it doesn't cause any strain or problems," said Tran.

Tran said you should minimize glare in the room by keeping walls and other surfaces dull. In addition:

  • Use proper lighting, as bright lights should be overhead and out of your eyes.
  • Upgrade your monitor to an LCD if you're still using an old-tube type.
  • Adjust the brightness on your monitor. It should be the same as the lighting in the room.
  • You can also use a glare filter that goes on the front of your screen.

If you wear glasses or contact lenses you can also get glare-resistant glasses with a focal length appropriate for desk work.