8 Ways To Reduce Or Even Eliminate Computer Vision Syndrome

Over the past week "Computer Vision Syndrome" has been in the news. The latest story in "The Frederick News-Post" titled "Prolonged computer use can lead to vision problems".

The article states that more than 88 million people who use computers for more than 4 hours per day suffer from computer vision syndrome, that's about a quarter of the total population of the U.S.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimates state the enormous cost for workman's comp, to the economy, and employers: In 2002, employers reported a total of 487,900 lost workdays due to work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), representing nearly 50% of all lost work days. On top of these productivity costs, employers have paid approximately $20 billion annually in direct worker's compensation costs. Indirect costs, like lower productivity at work, etc. add another $60 billion, for a total of $80 billion dollars.

The articles quotes Dr. Frishman, an optometrist from Frederick, Maryland, that the top of the monitor should be at the same level when you stretch your arms out. That would mean that I had to dig my monitor into my desk. The correct location of the monitor is: top of screen at or just below eye level, not shoulder/arm level.

Here are some tips to reduce or even eliminate most symptoms:

1. Use a TCO'03 compliant monitor. Not only are they more environmentally friendly than other monitors, TCO'03 also requires compliance with ergonomic standards: contrast, resolution, brightness, adjustability, etc. Make sure that the LCD monitor you use has a "Class 1" rated LCD panel built in. If the literature that comes with the monitor doesn't explicitly say "Class 1" it probably is not.

2. The area behind the monitor should be lit, too. If it is all dark around your monitor (or TV for that matter), the eye has to constantly adjust between bright and dark. Use a light colored keyboard.

3. Dark, black keyboards create eye strain for the same reason. Ideally, the area on your desk where the computer is should be in "lighter" colors.

4. If you need reading glasses, they won't work with your computer. The monitor should be about arms length away (25 inches), books and papers only about the length of your forearm (15 inches). Ask your optometrist what he can do for you. Zeiss Optical has special lenses called "Gradal RD"

5. Avoid glare, reflections, etc. from windows, lamps, etc.

6. Look away from the monitor at least every 15 minutes. Look out the window. In Germany for example, regulations require that every computer worker has to be able to look out a window without getting up. The eye is relaxed when you look into the distance but contracted when you look on closer objects.

7. Human attention span is typically between 20 and 45 minutes. Find your attention span, set an alarm and walk away from your desk for a couple of minutes, stretch, go for a little walk and breath deeply. Do not look at literature or anything close.

8. If you use a notebook, the notebook has to be off your desk to bring you monitor to eye level. Get a notebook stand. This will also prolong the life and increase the stability of your notebook, because it runs cooler. Don't forget to remove the battery when it is charged.

What is your next step to reduce your computer eye strain?

Thomas Schramm