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Preventing Computer Eye Strain

by Andrew Fink

While our lives have become dependent on computers, our bodies haven't quite accepted the idea. Every day computer users complain of blurred vision, tired eyes, gritty eyes and headaches. Many start to wear eye glasses and blame their computers. Others are convinced that their computer has caused their Myopia (nearsightedness) to worsen. High tech employees worry about radiation from the computer screen. Can the computer lead to irreversible eye damage?

The good news is that extensive eye care health research in Israel and in North America has shown conclusively and repeatedly that computers do not cause eye disease. Nor has it been shown that intensive computer work can lead to or effect myopia in high tech workers. (The situation with children is slightly more controversial but this will be discussed in another article) However there is no doubt that computers can lead to many temporary eye problems most of which can be solved by simple changes in work pattern.

The sooner any symptoms begin, for instance within half an hour of commencing work, the more likely it is that there is a specific problem. Developing tired eyes after eight hours of non stop intensive visual activity is normal though. Try running the New York, London or Jerusalem marathons and see if your legs get tired.

The following are some simple tips to prevent eye strain and to enhance your eye health care for many years to come.

Have your eyes and vision checked at least once a year. Any minor vision problem will be aggravated by computer use. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, be sure they are appropriate for computer use and for the distance between you and your computer.

Be sure to rest your eyes regularly, especially if you are new to computers. Remember the 20:20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look in to the distance for 20 seconds. Continuous use of any part of the body, including your eyes, will inevitably lead to fatigue.

Your computer should be at a comfortable distance (about 30-40cm) and the top of the screen should be facing you and slightly below eye level. Adjust your desk or chair so that this is the case. Our eyes are designed to point forwards and downwards when looking at near objects, e.g. when reading. Looking upwards or sideways at your computer will rapidly lead to eye strain.

Hang any material you are copying at the same distance and as close to the screen as possible. Use a manuscript holder. This will prevent constant refocusing to differing distances and directions.

Minimise glare from your computer screen due to reflections from lights or windows. This can be done by adjusting the direction of your screen or by attaching a glare reduction filter. Your pupil changes in size according to the brightness of the screen and excessive movement of the pupil caused by multiple reflections can cause headaches. Bright sunlight from a window behind your screen will have a similar effect. Glare also causes you to screw up your eyes, which if prolonged, will lead to headaches. However make sure your desk and key board are sufficiently illuminated.

Occasional use of artificial tear eye drops (as recommended by your eye doctor) can help dry eyes symptoms. We tend to blink less when concentrating intently, and when looking straight ahead much of the eye is exposed leading to increased tear evaporation and dry eyes. Remember to blink more.

Keep your computer screen clean. Dust and fingerprints can reduce clarity.

Poor quality computer screens can lead to eye strain. Low resolution, low pixel numbers and high contrast colors can put an extra strain on the eyes when reading from a screen. The Refresh Rate of a computer is a measure of how often the display unit refreshes or redraws the picture per second. In the past rates of 60Hz were acceptable, but flickering of the screen was evident at this rate causing headaches. It is now recommended that the rate should not be less than 70Hz and most new monitors are 75-85 Hz.

Sensible use of your computer will reduce headaches and eye discomfort, and increase productivity.

About the Author

Dr Andrew Fink MD FRCOphth is a practising Eye Surgeon in Tel Aviv, Israel. Originally from England he specialises in Laser Vision Correction, and Cataract Surgery. He is medical adviser to, an on line discount contact lens service.