You may be straining to read this right now — thanks to computer vision syndrome (CVS). If so, you’re hardly alone. A recent study found that up to 90 percent of computer users report one or more CVS symptoms, many of which carry over into the rest of our lives.
Those symptoms include eyestrain, blurry vision, dry eyes, neck and shoulder pain, and headaches, according to the American Optometric Association. And some CVS sufferers have ongoing blurred distance vision even after work.
One reason CVS is so ubiquitous: Compared with sharply defined characters printed on a page, computer characters are pixelated and inherently blurry, forcing our eyes to constantly work to focus.
To relieve computer vision syndrome, try these expert tips.
1. Optimize your work space.
Arrange your desk so you’re sitting about 25 inches (an arm’s length) from your computer screen, advises the American Academy of Ophthalmology. The closer you are, the harder your eyes have to work.
Eye experts at the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Medicine recommend positioning the center of the monitor 4 to 8 inches below eye level. This prevents eyes from opening too wide and minimizes dry eyes and itching. It also keeps your neck and back in a relaxed position.
If you work between printed materials and your screen, use a document stand to reduce neck pain.
2. Adjust your lighting.
Blazing daylight or overhead lights force your eyes to labor as they view the screen.
To help your pupils constrict and increase your depth of focus, keep your screen brighter than the ambient light. Arrange your monitor to eliminate glare from other light in your work space. An antiglare cover and glare-reducing or tinted eyeglasses may help.
Adjust your monitor or software to use type sizes that are easy on your eyes, or simply zoom in on documents. Be careful not to make the type too large, though — this can overpixelate on-screen copy.
To make reading larger fonts easier, opt for black text on a white background. You might also consider getting computer glasses that magnify the screen slightly.
4. Be sure to blink.
You unconsciously blink 66 percent less often as you stare at a screen, report University of Iowa eye experts; this can leave you with dry, burning eyes.
The solution? Remind yourself to blink by setting a timer and taking blink breaks twice an hour. Use eye drops to keep your eyes lubricated, especially in dry office environments.
5. Remember the 20-20-20 rule.
The Mayo Clinic advises giving your eyes a 20-second break every 20 minutes to focus on something 20 feet away.
There are numerous apps, browser extensions, and websites to remind you, such as www.protectyourvision.org.
While you’re taking that break, get up and move around. We’re often sitting for long periods while viewing our screens, which reduces blood circulation and can cause muscle stiffness and pain.