Are You Suffering from Computer Vision Syndrome?

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Staring at the computer screen for long hours could cause blurred vision, fatigue and headaches -- or "Computer Vision Syndrome." How to protect your eyes.Are you one of those people who have to stare at the computer for hours a day? Or maybe you use the computer every day just to surf the Web and do some personal e-mailing. Whatever your circumstances, staring at your computer screen could cause some pretty noticeable symptoms, including dry, tired eyes, blurred vision, fatigue, and headaches. Well, here’s some health news: these symptoms now have a name — computer vision syndrome, or CVS.

The only problem is that eye doctors can’t agree on whether it’s serious. Some experts are skeptical whether CVS is any different from symptoms experienced during other forms of close-up work. Although the symptoms of CVS are real, some eye doctors consider the condition a catch phrase that doesn’t appear to suggest any specific damage that occurs in the eye as a result of sitting too long in front of a computer.

On the other hand, the American Optometric Association (AOA) backs up the idea that CVS is a complex of eye and vision problems related to staring at a computer screen. In addition, the AOA argues that the syndrome is a significant public health issue.

In a recent survey, the AOA found that, in the United States, upwards of 10 million eye examinations each year are conducted to address computer-related visual problems — that’s a lot of people complaining of eye problems! The AOA goes on to report that between 50% and 90% of people who routinely work in front of a video-display terminal are subject to visual symptoms characteristic of CVS.

The debate about the seriousness of CVS isn’t over yet; however, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (which represents medical doctors specialized in vision care) views CVS as a reversible short-term condition that dissipates when users take breaks away from their computer screens.

The good news in all of this is that CVS may really be symptomatic only for the time that you are there at your
computer. So far there’s no data to show that there is any permanent damage to the surface of the eye or any pathology of the eye that accompanies working at the computer.

Keep in mind that, if you are far-sighted, you’ll likely struggle to focus up close, causing normal eye strain. The progressive loss of the ability to easily shift between distance and near vision, which starts at about age 40, may also add to eye strain.

No doubt the seriousness of CVS will be debated for some time. While that debate goes on, here’s some health advice to keep strain on your eyes minimal:

—Get the proper standard corrective glasses or contacts
—To avoid getting dry eyes, remember to blink often
—Periodically get up from your chair and walk around your desk, and look off way into the distance before you sit down and go back to work