What Is Computer Vision Syndrome?

Girl with brown hair and glasses smiling while using a laptop

Computer Vision Syndrome Summary

Prolonged screen time, whether on a TV, computer, smartphone, e-reader, tablet, or other screen-based device, can lead to an eye condition known as Computer Vision Syndrome, or Digital Eye Strain. Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) includes a variety of symptoms that you may not realize are linked to your screen time. In this blog post, we’ll help you understand what CVS is and outline the steps you can take to help prevent it.

What Causes Computer Vision Syndrome/Digital Eye Strain?

The main cause of CVS is the blue light emitted from screens. Blue light, also called high-energy visible light, is a portion of the light spectrum containing light rays of the shortest wavelength. When it comes to lights, shorter wavelengths actually contain more energy than longer wavelengths.

The nature of blue light causes it to scatter easily, meaning the eyes cannot focus and interpret it without additional effort. This is one reason why using screens can lead to CVS — your eyes actually have to work harder to process the visual information. The human eye is also not adept at blocking blue light — its rays completely pass through to the light-sensitive retina, which can cause cell damage.

What Else Contributes to Computer Vision Syndrome/Digital Eye Strain?

Not surprisingly, the biggest contributing factor to CVS is how much time one spends viewing screen-based devices. In our constantly connected, hyperdigital society, it is likely that many of us are accumulating at least seven hours of screen time per day. For someone with a computer-based job, that number is likely even higher.

In addition to screen use, other factors such as allergies, preexisting eye or vision problems, and a poor work environment can also lead to the development of CVS. Components of a poor work environment may include:

  • Room lighting that is too strong or too dim
  • Device screen that is too bright or too dim
  • Glare on the device screen
  • On-screen text that is too small
  • Poor screen placement (too far, close, low, or high)
  • Lack of ergonomic desk, seating, keyboard, or mouse
  • Poor posture while using any screen (not just a computer screen)

What Are the Symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome?

As we mentioned above, the symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome can mimic those of other common ailments, such as allergies. If you have CVS, you may experience any of the following symptoms:

  • General eye discomfort
  • Eye strain or fatigue
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Eye itching or redness
  • Dry eyes
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Headaches

Why Does Computer Vision Syndrome Affect the Head, Neck, and Shoulders?

You may wonder what your head, neck, and shoulders have to do with a vision syndrome. The reason you may experience symptoms in these areas isn’t necessarily because of the computer screen itself. Vision disturbances and eye strain related to CVS can lead to headaches, making that tightness or pounding in your skull a secondary symptom of the condition. One of the other contributors to CVS is poor posture at your workstation, which is why you may experience soreness or stiffness in your upper body. Further into this post, we’ll go over some tips to help you use various devices in a more ergonomic fashion.

Is Computer Vision Syndrome Permanent or Serious?

Fortunately, Computer Vision Syndrome is not considered a permanent condition. However, the symptoms may become more severe if you do not change the way you use screens. Although it’s unlikely that you will experience permanent eye or vision damage due to CVS, it’s still a good idea to tackle the issue to avoid the pain and discomfort that comes with it.

How to Prevent Computer Vision Syndrome/Digital Eye Strain

Because we can and may even need to use screens for so many activities — working, learning, socializing, entertainment, and more — it can be difficult to limit screen time. However, shutting off your devices isn’t the only way to help prevent Computer Vision Syndrome/Digital Eye Strain. Implementing the following steps can help you balance screen time and eye health:

  • Limit screen time — outside of work, set aside a short period of recreational screen time.
  • Follow the 20/20/20 rule — for every 20 minutes of screen time, take a 20 second break to focus on something 20 feet away.
  • Use computer glasses — yellow-tinted glasses can help block blue light.
  • Correct your screen-use posture — there is even proper posture for smartphone use.
  • Optimize your workstation — choose ergonomic equipment and placement.
  • Adjust your screen settings — balance brightness, light temperature, and text size.
  • Adjust lighting — avoid glare, harsh lights, or lack of lighting.
  • Blink and hydrate — keep your eyes lubricated to enhance comfort during screen use.

Surprise! The Biggest Source of Blue Light is the Sun!

Because we so often view outdoor activities as a healthy alternative to screen time, it’s tempting to think that this swap is also better for our eyes. Technically, it is — if you wear sunglasses! You probably already know how important it is to wear sunglasses to block UV rays, but it’s equally important to wear them to block blue light. For extra protection, choose sunglasses with side shields and wear a cap or wide-brimmed hat.

Get Computer Glasses and Sunglasses at Rochester Optical

Preventing Computer Vision Syndrome and other eye problems related to blue light exposure starts with better habits, including using the right eyewear. Whether you need computer glasses or sunglasses, the optometry team at Rochester Optical is here to help you find the best products to meet your needs and fit your style. Contact us to learn more about our options, including prescription and non-prescription eyewear. Due for an eye exam? Request an appointment online today!