How To Tell If You Have Computer Vision Syndrome (And How to Fix It)

Computers, while wonderful, routinely stress your eyes. A name actually exists for this eyestrain—computer vision syndrome (CVS), and it’s often the No. 1 office health complaint.

You may have suffered from CVS symptoms after a long day at the ’puter yourself: fatigue, headache, dry eye, pain around the eyes, and trouble maintaining your focus. Your eyes are used to seeing sharp, well-defined details and contrasts, but computer screens flash soft images, which your eyes constantly try to put in better focus. Making a few minor adjustments to your screen time, however, can help you avoid CVS.

1. Use proper lighting. When on the computer, your ambient lighting should be about one-half that used in most offices. Bright ambient light causes glare. Reduce it by closing drapes, shades, or blinds and using lower-intensity bulbs. Also, try to position your monitor so the windows are to the sides of the monitor instead of in front or back of it.

2. Cut glare further. Install an antiglare screen, paint bright white walls a darker color with a matte finish, or use a computer hood.

3. Adjust the monitor. Position it 20 to 30 inches from your eyes or about an arm’s length away. The top should be at or below eye level.

4. Increase the font. If you constantly lean forward to read small type, switch to a larger font size, or zoom in to increase the page size.

5. Blink, blink, and blink. You blink about five times less than normal when on the computer, according to optometrist Larry K. Wan, OD, with the Family EyeCare Center in Campbell, California. This can trigger dry eyes. To keep your eyes well-lubricated, try this: Every 30 minutes, blink 10 times by closing your eyes very slowly as if falling asleep.

6. Take 10. Make sure to take a 10-minute break each hour. And every 30 minutes, do this exercise: Look away from the screen, and focus on a distant object for about five to 10 seconds. Or look far away at an object for 10 to 15 seconds and then nearby for 10 to 15 seconds. Go back and forth 10 times.

7. Do an eye meditation. Rub your palms quickly together until they feel warm. Cup them over your closed eyes. Feel the heat emanating from your palms, but don’t touch your eyelids. “You want complete blackness, and it takes about six minutes to get rid of any afterimages,” says Meir Schneider, PhD, LMT, of the School of Self-Healing in San Francisco. Sit quietly in this position, and slow your breathing to a steady rise and fall. This deep relaxation helps to soothe both eyes and body. Do this at least three times a day or whenever you need a quick eye break.

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