Vision Problems for Spending Too much Time In Front of Computer Screen

Vision Problems for Spending Too much Time In Front of Computer Screen

The 2001 U.S. Census Report states that over 143 million Americans spend time at a computer every day, and that 54 million of those are children.Eyestrain is the number one complaint of office workers. The more time you spend working at a computer, the more likely you are to report problems with eyestrain (Cornell University, 1999 "Computers in the Schools")


Computer abuse can result from people using it repeatedly as their main stress reliever, instead of having a variety of ways to cope with negative events and feelings. Other misuses can include procrastination from undesirable responsibilities, distraction from being upset, and attempts to meet needs for companionship and belonging.

Your child may have 20/20 eyesight with or without glasses, but poor visual skills. The difference is critical. An eye exam by most eye doctors and all school vision screenings ignore 9 out of 10 visual abilities necessary for a child to achieve full potential in school. Very few eye doctors have the interest or specialized training in detecting and treating these visually related reading problems. Don't assume that all eye exams are the same.

A survey of optometrists indicated that 10 million primary care eye examinations are conducted annually in the U.S. because of visual problems at computers (Sheedy and Parsons). The most frequent visual problems reported in that survey (listed by frequency) are:

eyestrain; headaches; blurred vision; dry or irritated eyes; neck and/or backaches; photophobia (light sensititivy); double vision; after images (Sheedy and Parsons).

The main focus of scientific investigation has addressed the following parameters relative to computer operation and their possible biological and behavioral effects upon humans:

Vision-related symptoms occur whenever the visual demands of the task exceed the individual's visual abilities. Many people have marginal vision disorders such as difficulties with accommodation (eye focusing) or binocular vision problems (eye coordination) that do not cause symptoms when performing less-demanding visual tasks.

Parents have two more items to add to their back-to-school checklist: an eye check for their children and a review of their computer workstation for possible causes of eye strain.

One out of two children spends more than four hours a day in front of a computer screen, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA). But, the association addes, only 16 percent of adults worry that their children's eyes may be affected by such extended computer time.

The association warns that many children may be developing Computer Vision Syndrome due to prolonged computer use.

"Computer use is an increasing source of vision problems, and children may experience many of the same symptoms as adults. Too much time in front of a computer screen can lead to eye discomfort, fatigue, blurred vision and headaches," optometrist Leonard Press, a vision-learning specialist with the AOA, said in a prepared statement. "However, some unique aspects of how children use computers may make them even more susceptible than adults to these problems."

According to the association, parents should be aware that an adult computer workstation may not be suited to a child, who may have to look up at a higher angle than an adult. Parents should invest in a chair that can be adjusted for the child's height. The recommended distance between the monitor and the eye for children is between 18 and 28 inches.

Children may work or play on a computer with a lot of glare for a long period of time without turning down the lights in the room to reduce the glare. Parents can check for sources of glare by sitting in front of the computer. Windows or other light sources should not be directly visible when sitting in front of the monitor. Holding a small mirror flat against the screen can help pinpoint light sources that are reflecting from above or behind.

At the same time, kids' eyes may lose the ability to focus on other objects because of extended computer time. The association recommends that children take at least a 20-second break for every 20 minutes of computer time.

The association recommends that parents take their children for an annual eye exam and discuss computer use with their eye doctor. According to the College of Optometrists in Vision Development, almost one in four school-age children has vision problems, but only 14 percent of children entering first grade have an eye exam.

The association also recommends that parents and teachers keep their eyes open for signs of eye strain in children, including eye redness, rubbing their eyes, head turns, complaints of blurriness or eye fatigue, or limited attention to visual tasks. Data provided by the association indicates that nearly half of parents don't realize that behavioral problems can be a sign of impaired vision.

Most repetitive stress injuries are linked to the stress of repetitive motions at the computer or overuse injuries in sports.Repetitive stress injuries (RSI) are a group of conditions generally caused by placing too much stress on a joint, and they vary in type and severity. The lack of clearly defined edges on the characters makes comfortable focusing virtually impossible. The effort to constantly refocus creates fatigue.

According to the American Optometric Association, "Among school-age children, vision disorders affect one in every four. While many of these patients have refractive errors (myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and/or astigmatism) commonly treated by compensatory lenses, some have additional problems in the functioning of the vision system that are most appropriately treated with optometric vision therapy". About 40% of all Americans have functional vision deficits. Vision problems not only affect an individual's ability to perform tasks, but it can also affect his/her self-esteem as well.

Many computer users experience symptoms of dry eyes, particularly people who wear contact lenses. Normally, when we read or do other close work, we hold the material in our laps, as when we read a book or a magazine. Most of the surface of our eyes is covered by our eyelids, so the tear film does not evaporate rapidly. Looking at a computer however, typically means looking straight ahead, not down. More of our eye surface is exposed, and the tear film can evaporate, causing a dry, burning, gritty sensation. Blink rate can affect our comfort level, too.

A survey conducted by Industrial Design center, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), shows that video display terminals (VDT) or computer work is strenuous and leads to complex eye and vision problems. According to Optometry, a leading optometry magazine in the US, half of America's workforce (about 75 million people) who use their computers daily, suffer from Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).

Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), once recognized, is fairly easy to correct. Recently, revolutionary diagnostic equipment has been designed to properly evaluate the computer user who is suffering from the symptoms of CVS To begin, anyone who suspects CVS, or who works at a computer several hours a day, should have a thorough eye exam that includes a CVS diagnostic test. Make sure your optometrist or ophthalmologist knows that you use a computer regularly.

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