Keeping an Eye on Technology

Do you ever sit back from your computer and rub your eyes during the course of the day? Or find yourself staring off into the distance at your desk? After hours of internet research, data entry or poring over the company budget, do your eyes feel heavy and dry? None of those scenarios would be surprising as the computer has become an integral tool for most of our needs and luxuries. New forms of computerized technology emerge on the market every year and consumers take for granted the conveniences computers provide. These include cell phones, PDAs, vehicle navigation, laptops, desktops, home security devices, to name only a few. Statistics show that over 50 percent of employees in the U.S. use a computer to complete their daily tasks. About 90 percent of children and teens use computers at school or home, even children as young as 5 years. The computer has become essential to the educational system for not only completing day-to-day school work but for accessing the internet as well. According to the Computer Industry Almanac Inc., over 185 million Americans use the internet.

It is not surprising that medical conditions are now being identified as a direct result of overuse of the computer. Among conditions such as muscle and joint disease, carpal tunnel syndrome and neck and shoulder pain; vision problems are often reported. Symptoms include dryness of the eyes, eyestrain, blurred vision, headaches, reduced acuity of vision and reduced concentration. To collectively diagnose those suffering with these symptoms, the name VFS (Visual Fatigue Syndrome) has been given. Up to 83 percent of patients experience some form of VFS. 75 percent wear corrective lenses but continue to suffer from VFS. 25 percent of patients experience VFS symptoms daily.

What causes VFS? According to the American Optometric Association, there are different environmental factors. Poor lighting, monitor glare, improper viewing distance, poor seating posture, uncorrected vision impairments, or a combination of all of these are to blame for symptoms of VFS. The affects of VFS can also depend on one’s overall vision health and the amount of time he or she spends looking at a computer screen or focusing on small, highly detailed work. General aging of the eyes can also contribute to the severity of VFS.

There are precautions that can be taken to help control the symptoms of VFS. These have to do with how we view the computer.

1) Adjust your computer screen – ideally, the computer monitor should be angled between 15 to 20 degrees below eye level.

2) Limit head movement – Place your reference materials parallel with the monitor so as to reduce unnecessary up and down head motion.

3) Avoid glare – Use blinds or curtains and replace high wattage bulbs with lower wattage to prevent harmful effects of overhead lighting or bright natural light. Try using a glare filter on your monitor if you cannot control your lighting scheme.

4) Adjust your chair – Your chair height should allow your feet to be rested flat on the floor. Your arms and wrists should be parallel with the floor, but should not be rested on the keyboard when typing.

5) Take breaks – When using the computer continuously, rest your eyes for 15 minutes every two hours. You can also give your eyes a reprieve by occasionally looking away from the monitor for just 20 seconds. Try to reduce dryness of the eye by blinking more frequently and using artificial tears routinely to lubricate the eye.

The optical health community is responding to the rising reported cases of VFS by furthering corrective eyewear. There is now a lens available to help correct the problems specifically associated with VFS. The Anti-Fatigue lens is prescribed to individuals who may or may not already suffer from Presbyopia (a hardening of the eye lens associated with natural aging). Essilor of America, Inc. is one manufacturer of the Anti-Fatigue lens. Essilor reports that the Anti-Fatigue lens is meant to be worn daily as a replacement for one’s single vision lens. These lenses work to relieve visual fatigue due to a slightly stronger power in the lower portion of the lens.

Do I need two pairs of glasses if I have VFS? Most do not need more than one pair. Some may experience VFS symptoms only when completing a particular task, in which case, the doctor may prescribe an additional pair designed to aid your vision only when you perform that task.

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