Computer Vision; Learn how to preserve your eyesight in an increasingly digital world

Computer Vision; Learn how to preserve your eyesight in an increasingly digital world

It comes as no shock that most often you're connected to your digital devices for the majority of the day. Whether it be your e-reader, laptop, smartphone or GPS, your eyes are glued to the screen. A problem that is becoming more popular in our technologically driven world today is known as computer vision syndrome, or CVS.

CVS can affect up to 90 percent of people who spend two or more continuous hours a day with their eyes engulfed in digital media of some sort. The symptoms, which can include headaches, dry eyes, blurry vision, or even long-term nearsightedness, may ensue for over a period of days or even months.

Some General Understanding
The human eye's natural focal point lies about 20 feet in front of the face. However, most people sit less than two feet from their digital devices, forcing a ring of eye muscles to continuously contract in order to redirect focus. If you stare at any sort of digital screen for hours, your eye muscles can become so overworked, not having time to relax, even when you look away. The resulting hazy vision often clears up in as little as a few seconds, but if you manage this effect several times a day, usually five to seven days a week, then the short-term nearsightedness could possibly become permanent.

Note- There is a discrepancy in terms of lasting effects of CVS. The American Optometric Association warns that it might not be permanent.  However, American Academy of Ophthalmology considers CVS to be a temporary, day-to-day annoyance that improves as soon as you take some time away from the screens.

The thing is, your eyes can't differentiate between routine morning emails and online educational videos. In both cases, blinking typically becomes an afterthought.

A recent study found that most people blink an average of 16 times per minute, regularly washing away dirt and dust, keeping their eyeballs moist for optimal function. However, when battling the digital screens, the same people blinked fewer than six times per minute. The main result was extremely dry, irritated eyes, which over time, frequent dryness can lead to infection.



Be Proactive
Hiding in the darkness or shutting off the laptop isn't necessary; most CVS symptoms can be controlled. Take some steps to begin preventing symptoms.

1. Learn the 20-20 rule. Look away from your screen every 20 minutes for 20 seconds and focus on a fixed point 20 feet away. Like any exercise, this eye movement works best when practiced regularly, try to get in the habit.

2. Next, make sure you're set up so that your eyes are level with the very top of your monitor, says Louise Sclafani, O.D., director of optometric services at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Your eyes focus best when they're looking downward, she stated, and partially closed lids can combat dry eyes by preventing tears from evaporating.

3. Cut down on any annoying glare. If you're holding a smartphone or e-reader and have to cup one hand over the screen to read the words on it, you could be straining your eyes and risking CVS, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Close the blinds, adjust your device's contrast or brightness levels, or buy an inexpensive antiglare cover.

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Still have perfect vision?  Even if your eyesight is top-notch, you may want to consider getting fitted for computer glasses some experts say.

Unlike corrective lenses for near- or farsightedness, these reduce eyestrain by helping your midrange vision. Your doctor can even prescribe an all-in-one pair of lenses that will correct CVS and any other sight issue.

Bottom line, try to start blinking more. Whenever you sit in front of a screen for hours at a time, try to remember to combat overly dry eyes by blinking very slowly every so often. Small breaks and a healthy perspective are the keys to beating CVS.

SOURCE: Sweeney, B. The Truth Behind Computer Vision. Women's Health. (April 2011).http://www.womenshealthmag.com

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