While computer technology enhances the American lifestyle, its ease and efficiency also can create vision problems.
Both children and adults who spend hours at a time in front of a computer screen on a daily basis may suffer from Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).
CVS affects between 150 million and 200 million Americans or more than 90 percent of computer users. Optometrists said more patients are complaining of CVS symptoms, which include eyestrain, blurred vision, headaches, neck aches and the inability to focus eyes on the computer screen.
CVS symptoms can be alleviated by changing habits.
CVS can affect anybody who spends two or more hours continuously using a computer, Smartphone, e-reader, or playing a video game, said Dr. Debra Lehr, an optometrist at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township. Children may be more susceptible since their visual systems are not fully developed.
Additionally, the increasing rate of CVS complaints has mirrored the growing number of technology users.
This is not a new thing, said Dr. Patricia Butler, an optometrist at Butler Eye care in Wilkes-Barre. There are more cases due to the volume of people using more computers.
Common causes of CVS include poor lighting, a glare on the computer screen, uncorrected vision problems, improper vision problems and poor posture.
However, doctors are trying to raise awareness of the condition.
Increasing discussions about the use of lubricating drops, offering computer glasses and educating parents and children on the need for frequent breaks when engaged in computer, phone and video game use, Lehr said.
Thomas Engle, a board certified optician from Engle Eyewear, said he typically sees CVS symptoms in adults who have jobs where computer work is prevalent.
We're seeing a bulk of this in the 35-55 window, said Engle of people in their 40s who may already have poorer eyesight, partly because of their age.
Lisa Timchak, of Hunlock Creek, is an administrative assistant and uses her computer daily for eight hours a more.
She has had ongoing symptoms of CVS — headaches and blurred vision — for many years, but has been able to keep them to a minimum.
I use a glare screen on my monitor, take mini-look-away-breaks from the screen as much as possible and I keep my monitor at the recommended eye level and distance, said Timchak, who also wears contacts that help with multiple eye problems including CVS.
Children can suffer from CVS symptoms as well. Butler said the effects of CVS could potentially affect children's reading skills in the long run.
Children don't know to complain so we test children for focus and reading skills, Butler said. If they stop reading, that's huge for kids.
Another way opticians are addressing CVS is by encouraging patients to use computer glasses specifically designed for computer use.
In addition to creating a personalized individual measurement, the glasses have an anti-glare coating, which prevents reflection from the computer screen, said Butler.
While CVS is directly related to vision, there are ways also to prevent the condition by using ergonomics, an efficient way to enhance an individual's workspace.
It's about proper ergonomics. So many people fail in that department and they are not accustomed to sitting properly, said Engle. People should get themselves positioned properly. They should raise their seat height, sit back and sit up right.
Engle said people who weren't familiar with CVS, but had experienced symptoms were able to feel normal in their work environment again with the right steps.
It's shocking the number of people who don't know about CVS, said Engle. They assume they have to deal with pain and discomfort, but with proper care it can be life changing.
Reducing likelihood of CVS symptoms
•Apply the 20-20 rule: Look away from the computer every 20 minutes.
•Reduce the amount of lighting in the room to match the computer screen.
•Minimize glare from light sources (windows/lights)
• Use a computer anti-glare screen cover.
•Blink frequently and use artificial tears throughout the day.
•Adjust the computer display settings: Adjust the computer text size, contrast and brightness to match the room.
•Try computer glasses.