Eye Health in today’s electronic age – What is Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS)?
In the modern world, our eyes are constantly bombarded with information from displays. Whether it be from a laptop, smartphone, or some other device, many of us spend a significant portion of our day staring at some kind of display. As such, it is paramount that we should understand the strain placed on our vision and some steps we can take to improve and protect the health of our eyes.
Our vision is perhaps the most valuable tool at our disposal. While we learn about the world through its various sounds, smells, tastes, and textures, it is our sight that feeds the most information to our brains. Because of this, protecting our vision is one of the most important things we can do for our overall health. That’s easier said than done in the modern world.
Our eyes are constantly fed information through screens. Most of us have jobs that require us to look at a computer display of some kind for several hours a day. After work, we head home and stare at screens throughout the evening and well into the night. It’s no wonder, then, that many people complain of eye strain, blurred vision, or headaches after a long day of work. These symptoms and others, collectively known as computer vision syndrome (CVS), may affect as many as 90% of people who use a computer monitor, tablet, or other electronic display during the workday.
So what can we do about CVS? There’s no escaping the fact that many jobs require computers and, thus, require staring at a screen. In this article, we will discuss a few things you can do to reduce eye strain and alleviate some symptoms of CVS. We will also offer a list of laptop features that may adversely affect our eyes and what facets of notebooks may lighten the ocular load. Finally, we will offer a short list of some recommended laptops with high-quality screens that have some of these vision-saving features.
Steps you can take to alleviate CVS
Our pupils are constantly dilating and contracting. By periodically refocusing, we can relax the muscles that control our pupils and give our eyes a break.
The good news is that there are several steps you can take to minimize or outright prevent symptoms of CVS. Our eyes work like biological cameras; they are constantly focusing on an image, taking in light, and transmitting visual data to our brain for interpretation. By understanding how our eyes look at electronic displays, we can better control the stress placed upon them. The following list is by no means exhaustive, but these tips should help you if you consistently suffer from headaches, blurry vision, eye strain, or other common problems associated with CVS. Best of all, these are simple solutions that shouldn’t require you to buy new equipment or change your working situation.
- Refocus your eyes periodically. Perhaps the best way to protect your vision is to give your eyes a break. If you spend an extended period of time in front of a computer monitor or other display, look away from the screen every 20-30 minutes. Pick out a distant object or spot on a faraway wall and focus on it for about 30 seconds. This refocusing removes the immediate strain placed on your eyes, and focusing on a distant object will help relax the muscles that control your eye.
- Blink often. Blinking coats our eyes with tears and helps clear out any dust or particles that have found their way past our eyelashes. While blinking is an automatic reflex, some studies show that blinking rate is significantly reduced when we actively process information, such as when we are working at a computer monitor. This can lead to our eyes feeling dried out and may damage them over time. Like above, take a break every 20-30 minutes and intentionally blink your eyes very slowly 10 or more times. This will spread new tears over your eyes. You may also want to purchase lubricating eye drops if you suffer from very dry eyes.
- Adjust your lighting. Some lighting situations can actively damage our eyes, particularly bright environments. There’s a reason why we squint when we step outdoors on a sunny day; our pupils contract, which requires some muscles in our eyes to stay flexed. If you can, turn down the lights in your office and partially block any ambient light coming in from outdoors. Turning off overhead lights or fluorescent bulbs can also help. Incandescent and halogen bulbs are easier on our eyes, and placing them lower down to offer indirect light can help reduce strain.
- Adjust your display’s settings. Most modern LCD monitors and laptop displays allow the user to edit some settings. Lowering the brightness of your computer’s display will reduce ocular stress, similar to turning down ambient lighting. There is a threshold, though; if the computer screen is too dim, it can actually cause worse eye strain. Find a good sweet spot by incrementally stepping down the display’s brightness until your eyes aren’t squinting or straining too much to read text or view images. You can also download software to filter out blue light. Blue light has a shorter wavelength than red light and thus can cause greater eye strain, particularly if viewed at night. Blue-light filtering software shifts the color gradient of your computer’s display toward the red end of the light spectrum, increasing the wavelength of emitted light and reducing stress. A good app for this is f.lux, which can be set to automatically shift your display throughout the day.