Is Your Computer Monitor Really Hurting Your Eyes?

Posted on: 23 March 2015

After a long day of staring at spreadsheets or screens full of code, your eyes feel dry and tired, and you may have a dull headache. You assume that the eye irritation will go away when you get away from the computer. But if your job requires this of you every day, are your eyes being permanently damaged? Learn about how your computer impacts your vision and what you can do to reduce the strain and irritation.

Your Eye Irritation Has a Name

Optometrists call the collection of symptoms that a person has when their eyes are strained by looking at a monitor computer vision syndrome (CVS). This is characterized by having one or more of these symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Eye strain
  • Dry eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Shoulder and neck pain

Nearly 70 percent of people who use computers in their job experience some of these symptoms, notes Statistic Brain. You may not have all of these symptoms and, for most people, they go away when you stop working on the computer. There is little evidence that working on your computer causes permanent eye damage, reports NBC New York.

The Build-Up to Eye Strain at Work

Your eyes feel fine when you sit down at your desk in the morning. The eye irritation comes on gradually as you work. A number of factors contribute to the eye strain and other symptoms:

  • Poor lighting or lights that flicker, such as fluorescent fixtures
  • Computer monitor glare
  • Sitting too close to the monitor
  • Looking down at the monitor instead of level with your eyesight
  • Existing vision problems that haven't been diagnosed or treated

Each of these cause your eyes to work harder. The muscles in and around your eyes, and your neck muscles, must constantly adjust to keep the computer monitor in focus. These muscles get tired and will start to ache.

There are also differences in the way your eyes perceive text on a monitor versus words on a printed page that cause these symptoms.

Comparing a Book to a Monitor

The words on a book are printed in a constant contrast on a background that doesn't change. Your eyes adjust to focus on a page and rarely have to change unless the lighting changes. Text on a computer is made of tiny pixels. These little dots of light are brightest in the center and become fainter toward the edge. To keep focused on a computer screen, your eyes must continually adjust. This can exhaust your eye muscles and create the CVS symptoms.

Reducing Your Eye Strain at Work

The first step is to see your eye doctor for an exam to determine if you have a vision problem that can be corrected with glasses or contacts. These will help do some of the focusing for your eyes so they won't have to work as hard. Then you can make some adjustments at work to prevent the eye strain:

  • Lift your monitor so it is at eye level to reduce the strain on your neck and shoulder muscles.
  • Change or supplement the lighting in your work area so you work in a full-spectrum light that doesn't flicker.
  • Adjust the lighting to remove glare or use an anti-glare film over your monitor.
  • Look away from the monitor periodically and allow your eyes to focus on something else in the distance.

You don't need to worry about permanent eye damage from looking at your computer all day. But you will continue to get eye strain if you don't take some of these precautions.

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