You've been sitting in front of your computer for two hours trying to ignore your stinging, dry eyes and get through your work. You can't quit now....If only your eyes would stop burning.
Tired eyes and blurry vision are but two symptoms of what is now recognized as a broader problem called computer vision syndrome, or CVS. As computer use continues to rise, so do cases of CVS. A recent study showed that nearly 90 percent of employees who work with computers for more than three hours a day suffer from some form of eye trouble.
CVS has a host of causes, from improper lighting, screen glare, and an ill-adapted workspace, to poor posture and glasses or contact lenses with incorrect prescriptions, according to Kent M. Daum, O.D., Ph.D., of the School of Optometry of the University of Alabama, Birmingham. Infrequent blinking is another culprit. We blink to keep the eyes lubricated, explains Daum. When staring at a computer screen, we blink less, so the eyes become dry. And the more we concentrate, the less we blink, so casually surfing the Web may be easier on the eyes than focused work, he says. Also, deficiencies of vitamin A may cause severe eye dryness, so be sure to get enough.
While CVS has not yet been shown to damage vision, there is no need to put up with its uncomfortable symptoms. Proper workspace ergonomics, frequent breaks from the computer, and eye drops are easy solutions that work. (When choosing eye drops, stay away from those containing phenylephrine or other whitening agents that can worsen symptoms over time.)
Dimming the lights in the workspace can also reduce eye fatigue. "The eye adjusts to the relatively dim computer screen. If you have a brightly lit office, whenever you look away from the screen, your eyes have to adjust to that brighter light, which can lead to eye fatigue," Daum explains.
In addition, Judith Lasater, Ph.D., author of Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times (Rodmell, 1995), recommends adjusting the computer so that the eyes rest at the level just below the tips of the ears; this will put the head in a more relaxed, comfortable position. She also says to pull your shoulder blades down, "like tucking in a shirt," for a long back and open chest.To release overall tension (which she feels contributes to eye distress), Lasater suggests a version of Savasana (Corpse Pose) tailored for the eyes. Lie down in Savasana with a stack of several books lying nearby on the floor by the top of your head. Place either a five-pound bag of rice or some sandbags halfway on the books and halfway on your forehead. Relax for 15 minutes. This will help the muscles in the head to loosen and relax.