August 31, 2014
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Eye Health

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Do computers cause eye damage?

You're sure to have childhood memories of your mother yelling, "Don't sit too close to the TV or you're going to ruin your eyes!" The fear that she instilled in you has probably carried over into your adult life - only now, it's the hours spent at work in front of the computer that have you convinced you're doing real damage to your eyes.

The truth is, there is no good evidence that staring at a computer will cause permanent eye damage. However, computers can cause many uncomfortable eye-related symptoms such as eyestrain, dry eyes, headache, fatigue, difficulty focusing, blurred vision, and shoulder and neck pain. Although these symptoms typically go away when you're done work, they can greatly disrupt your productivity and satisfaction while you're at work.

You might be surprised to learn that the cause of these problems is more likely a result of the conditions around your computer, rather than the computer itself. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to optimize your working conditions to better suit your eyes. Try the following tips.

  • Take regular breaks. You can do this by closing your eyes or focusing on a distant object for a few minutes. If you can, get out of your seat and take a walk or shift your focus to a task that does not require looking at the computer screen.
  • Position the computer screen properly. You should be 20 to 28 inches away from your computer screen. The top of the screen should be just below your eye level, and slightly tilted away from you at a 10° to 20° angle. This means your eyes will be gazing down at about a 15° angle. Keeping a downward gaze reduces stress on your eye muscles.
  • Get an eye exam. Your eye-related issues may be due to an underlying vision problem that gets worse with computer use.
  • Clean your computer screen regularly. The static charge on the screen can cause a build up of dust, which may irritate your eyes.
  • Prevent dry eyes. Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air or try using lubricating eye drops before using the computer and throughout the day. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist about choosing appropriate eye drops.
  • Adjust for adequate lighting. Try balancing the brightness of the computer screen with that of the room. Adjust desk lamps to avoid glare on the screen. Adjust the blinds or curtains to control glare from the window throughout the day. Remember to readjust the lighting when reading text in a book or on paper.

Lisa Tourountzas


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