Eye Strain and Ergonomics

It seems nearly everyone in this digital world is spending a lot of time in front of a computer, which can strain the eyes.  Anyone who uses a computer for prolonged periods is at risk for headaches, burning eyes, red eyes, a stiff neck and other symptoms that comprise computer vision syndrome (CVS). Prolonged computer work also can cause physical stress that eventually could lead to a disability.  Focusing your eyes on objects at the same distance and angle for prolonged periods of time can contribute to eye strain.

In the short run, eye strain eventually goes away… but it can certainly be annoying.  In some cases; however, eyestrain is an early sign of an underlying eye condition that may require a doctor visit.  Depending on the amount of time you work at a keyboard, the kind of vision correction needed,  your eye specialist may recommend bifocals, trifocals or even a separate pair of glasses for computer work.

Here are some prevention actions to help ease eye strain:

  • Take frequent eye breaks.  Every few minutes, look away from your computer screen.  Focus your eyes on something else in your office, whether it be a wall or clock.  Try to stand up and move around at least every 30-45 minutes throughout your workday.  Massaging your eyes will also give you some relief.
  • Blink often to refresh your eyes.  If you are in front of a computer screen for a long time, you may not be blinking enough to give your eyes some rest.  This can result in dry eyes.  Blinking produces tears that can help moisten and lubricate your eyes.  In dry environments, such as an air conditioned office, you might want to try over-the-counter eye drops.
  • Get appropriate eye wear.  If you wear glasses or contacts, make sure your prescription is current and are appropriate for you.  Make sure you see your eye doctor for an exam every two years if you are under the age of 40.  If you are older than 40, you should see your eye doctor every year.

Other examples of work-related risk factors that contribute to eye discomfort are:

  • maintaining a fixed and close visual distance for a long time
  • glare from the unshaded or un-diffused lighting fixtures
  • poor lighting, involving unchanged (and unchangeable) levels of illumination
  • unsuitable workstations (dimensions and arrangement)
  • low ambient humidity
  • uncorrected vision problems
  • lack of color variety in your surroundings