Ask the Eye Docs: Is My Computer Hurting My Eyes?

For more than a decade, the dedicated specialists at Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons have provided patients from all across Georgia with an array of eye care services, ranging from routine vision exams for prescription eyewear and comprehensive medical eye exams to advanced eye disease treatment and LASIK vision correction surgery.  In the latest installment of our ongoing blog feature, board-certified ophthalmologist Dr. William Segal and licensed consultative optometrist Dr. Marc Lay will answer some common questions about eyesight and vision care.

How Can Blue Light Hurt Your EyesQUESTION: I have worked for several years at a regular office job and spend most of my days looking at a computer screen.  Lately, I have started to notice that my eyes will start to itch and burn and, as the day goes on, I may even develop headaches and blurry vision.  Although I have been doing the same work for quite some time, these symptoms never really bothered me when I was younger.  Is this a common problem or a sign that my eyes are getting weaker?  Is there any chance that my job is causing permanent damage to my eyes?  Is there anything that I can do to help alleviate these symptoms and make my eyes feel better?

ANSWER: What you are describing sounds like computer vision syndrome, or CVS, a condition that is believed to affect as many as 70% of Americans and is considered to be one of the most wide-spread workplace ergonomic issues today.  Around the eye’s lens are tiny muscles responsible for maintaining focus.  If these muscles are forced to hold the same position for long periods of time, they can become fatigued, resulting in the headache and blurry vision you describe.  Moreover, when you are focusing intensely you tend to blink less often, depriving your eyes of the natural oils and mucus secretions in tears that keep the corneas clean and moist.  This causes the eyes to become red, itchy, and dry, which can, in turn, lead to further problems.  Although computer vision syndrome can affect patients of all ages, men and women over the age of forty are particularly susceptible.  As we get older, the lenses of the eyes tend to lose flexibility and the eye muscles become less resilient.  This means that the eyes have to work harder to focus on nearby objects, a condition commonly known as presbyopia.

Fortunately, even though eye strain associated with computer vision syndrome is irritating, it does NOT mean that your eyes are suffering permanent damage.  The irritation caused by CVS is almost always temporary.  The discomfort will, however, continue to increase unless you take steps to avoid it.  We recommend following what we call the “20-20-20 Rule.”  About every 20 minutes give yourself a small break and look away from your screen.  Focus on something 20 feet away for roughly 20 seconds.  Even this relatively short amount of time gives your eye muscles the rest they need to keep going longer, but only if you look away from ALL digital screens; glancing away from your monitor just to check your phone doesn’t count.  Also, remind yourself to blink frequently in order to keep your eyes moist and well-lubricated.  Additionally, at our Georgia Eye on-site optical center, we can provide prescription and non-prescription eyeglass lenses that are optimized for viewing a computer screen and that minimize eye fatigue.  Ask our comprehensive consultative optometrist, Dr. Marc Lay, for more details.

Caring for your eyes can sometimes be complicated, and an individual’s eyesight does tend to change over the course of a lifetime.  If you have any other concerns about your vision or any questions about how to best maintain the health of your eyes, please contact Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons to schedule an eye exam with Dr. William Segal or Dr. Marc Lay. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more information on how to keep your vision clear and healthy.