Computer Vision Syndrome—What is It?

In today’s information age, there are rare moments that people are without a screen in front of their faces. From cell phones to computer screens, and even navigation devices in our cars we are inundated with information. Our brains are designed to keep up with our modern-day pace, but what about our eyes?

After so much time in front of a screen, many people experience headaches, neck strain, or temporary blurred vision. Most often these symptoms will go away once the device is removed. For some, it could become something more. Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is a modern-day reality. An Optometrist may prescribe computer-oriented glasses to reduce the symptoms.

CVS is not reserved for adults. Children are falling prey to this repetitive use injury as well. If students view tablets or screens during the school day, only to come home to texting and video gaming, the risk can increase. CVS is further complicated by undiagnosed or uncorrected vision problems.

It’s not the same as reading a book or magazine. Our eyes perform the same repetitive motion, but the digital devices add complexity to the experience. The same short length, high energy light waves that make the sky look blue, are emitted from our digital devices. Though they are much less intense than those radiating from the sun, the amount of time we spend staring at them can affect our vision because blue light penetrates to the retina.

Glare can also affect the eyes, changing the way information is received at the retina. Computers are not the only culprit. Reflections of any shiny surface can cause the same result. We tend to look away from the shiny surface glare, but not from the lower strength digital devices. Looking away in the 20-20-20 resolution is not always possible. Every 20 minutes look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. If focused on a project, time can slip away making it difficult to commit to a regimented eye relief schedule. Computer glasses with an anti-glare coating is a great solution.

Many screened digital devices have something called flicker. The screen refreshes to its optimal pixel intensity, on a steady basis, causing our eyes to constantly adjust to the changing images on the screen. Video gaming is an obvious example of changing images on a screen. Flicker is not as noticeable. It is said that the perceptibility of screen flicker can be perceived by chewing something crunchy. The vibration of the chewing will match the flicker of the resolution of the screen. Depending on the intensity or speed of the flicker, some manufacturers have included warnings for those who suffer from motion sickness, epilepsy, or seizure disorders that may be triggered based on someone’s sensitivity.

Modern technology is not going anywhere in the future. It changes almost daily with new ways to stream information, keep constant communication, and organize our lives. We rely on our screens. It is imperative that we protect our visual health and the health of our children.