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Understanding Computer Vision Syndrome

Computer vision syndrome (CVS) is a group of eye- and vision-related problems. These problems can include eyes that are dry, red, itchy, or tearing. Your eyes may feel tired. You may not be able to focus well. CVS problems are the result of prolonged use of computer, e-readers, tablets, and smartphone. CVS is very common. It affects both children and adults.

What causes computer vision syndrome?

Reading text on a screen is harder for the eyes than reading printed text. This is why working on a computer can cause eye problems but reading a book may not. People also tend to blink less when using a computer than when reading printed text. This can cause dry eyes, which can also contribute to computer vision syndrome.

Many factors can lead to computer vision syndrome, such as:

  • Spending several hours a day at the computer

  • Vision problems (even minor ones) not corrected with lenses

  • Wearing glasses not suitable for viewing your computer screen

  • Poor posture while using the computer

  • Poor lighting

  • Glare from the computer screen

  • Sitting too close to the screen

  • Positioning the screen at a wrong angle

  • Not taking breaks while you are working

  • Using an older-style monitor instead of a flat-screen monitor

Dry eye and CVS

Dry eye is a condition where you don’t make enough tears to wet the eye. If you have dry eye, this can make CVS worse or more likely to occur. Dry eye is more common in women, and with aging. Some medicines and health problems make dry eye more likely. For example, using antihistamines may lead to dry eye. Thyroid disease and some autoimmune diseases may also lead to dry eye.

Symptoms of computer vision syndrome

Computer vision syndrome can cause symptoms such as:

  • Tired eyes

  • Eye discomfort

  • Dry eye

  • Red eyes

  • Eye tearing

  • Itchy eyes

  • Blurred vision

  • Double vision

  • Headaches

Most of these symptoms last a short time and lessen or go away when you stop using your computer. In some cases, symptoms may last for a longer time after using a computer.

Symptoms may be mild to severe. This depends on how long you use the computer and other eye problems you may have. Symptoms can get worse without treatment.

Computer use can also lead to neck and shoulder pain. This is often because you may have poor posture when using your computer. Some healthcare providers also consider these symptoms of CVS.

Diagnosing computer vision syndrome

Healthcare provider examining man's eyes.

An eye care health provider diagnoses CVS. They will ask about your symptoms and your health history. You’ll be given an eye exam. You may have tests to check the sharpness of your vision and how well your eyes focus and work together. Eye drops may be used to enlarge (dilate) your irises. This lets the doctor see into your eye. They may use a tool called an ophthalmoscope to look at the back of your eye. You may also have blood tests. These are to check for health problems that can cause dry eye and lead to CVS.

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