What causes CVS?

Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) can develop in patients who spend three hours or more on a computer every day, and typically involves a constellation of causes, all associated with computer use. This condition presents as temporary eyestrain, but can become a recurring problem if the patient does not take steps to address it. Patients may also develop headaches, neck pain and stiffness, and fatigue as a result of CVS. An ophthalmologist can evaluate the patient, and it may also be helpful to see an occupational therapist for advice on setting up work spaces to reduce CVS risk.

Looking at a screen can be stressful, especially when patients do it for long periods without resting. Many workers can focus on the screen for hours at a time while working on projects, often without realizing it. Periodically blinking and refocusing on a distant object can mitigate many of the symptoms of CVS by relieving strain and giving your eyes a break. In an office with a window, a simple step like looking out the window and focusing on something in the environment every 20 minutes can go a long way, while in a closed office, workers need to look as far away as possible.

Poor lighting can contribute to CVS. Glare, sharply angled lights, and lights with strong blue casts can be hard on the eyes. Using full-spectrum bulbs is helpful, as are positioning lights to neutrally wash the room without creating hot spots or glare. Adjusting the brightness of the screen can also be beneficial. For bare bulbs, a cover can limit glare and soften light to diffuse it, reducing eye strain. Patients may also find it helpful to improve their posture and hand position to reduce physical stress. Sometimes sitting in a poor position can also create a poor viewing angle, forcing your eyes to work harder.

Many patients with computer vision syndrome have pre-existing eye problems. They may not be aware of them or they may fall behind on eye exams and new prescriptions. Workers who begin to notice blurred vision, difficulty focusing, dry eyes, and eye strain after working should see an ophthalmologist for an evaluation. The doctor may determine that the patient needs a new prescription for glasses, and this could relieve much of the stress. Eye drops to limit dry eye may also be helpful for CVS.

It can be hard to remember to take breaks to rest your eyes and stretch while you work. Some workers find it helpful to set timed reminders on their computers to take breaks. It's also important to take full breaks as permitted by law, and away from the computer, rather than checking email and websites.

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