Schreiber Science: Computer Vision Syndrome

Adi Levin and Caroline Katz

We all know what it’s like to be drawn to your screen, whether you are texting at the speed of light, watching Netflix, or playing your favorite game.  But what does this do to your eyes? Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), otherwise known as Digital Eye Strain, is a problem that occurs when a person spends too much time staring at a screen.

There are many symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome, including eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and neck or shoulder strain.

Studies have shown that people blink far less frequently when looking at screens, which can cause eye dryness or soreness.

Eye lubrication is extremely important and can be affected by the way people commonly position their screens.  People are used to reading at a lower angle.  When doing so, more of the eyes are covered by the eyelids, making people less susceptible to dryness.  However, most people tend to view their screens at eye level, where their eyes are much more exposed.

In 2013, an experiment was conducted in which twelve men read for at least an hour on paper or e-ink, then on an LCD screen.  The results showed that not only did the participants blink more while reading from paper and e-ink, but they also reported more fatigue after reading from LCD screens.  The amount of visual fatigue from looking at paper and e-ink for an extended period of time was reported to be minimal.

Another major factor is distance.  Most people hold their smartphones far closer to their eyes than they do books and non-digital references.

People read text messages an average of fourteen inches from their eyes, while they generally read printed text about fifteen-and-three-quarters inches from their face.  What does this all mean?  When focusing on objects at closer distances, our eyes turn inward more, thus causing fatigue and straining the eyes.  As we age, it takes even more effort to focus on text at closer distances.

If you are one of the many victims of CVS, maybe it is time to make a change.  CVS can be lessened by something as simple as improving your lighting, perhaps by finding a spot without a glare from any light source.  Between manic periods of texting, take short breaks just to give your eyes a rest.

One successful technique is something dubbed by scientists as the 20-20-20 rule.  This means that every twenty minutes, you should take twenty seconds to look at something roughly twenty feet away, allowing your eyes time to adjust.  Lastly, it may be helpful to view your screen at a downward angle of about 15-20 degrees, or four to five inches below eye level.

Another odd but effective solution is to invest in a pair of Gunnar Optiks, which are “engineered to eliminate eye strain.” These are meant to be worn while staring at computer screens and are helpful in reducing discomfort and the likelihood of needing a stronger prescription, or a prescription at all. Gunnar Optiks are available at BestBuy and Gamestop.