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Computer vision syndrome in the new digital age Print

You may not end up with square eyes, but what impact is the computer age having on our vision?

 

An increasing reliance on digital technology has given rise to a new and emerging health condition called CVS, or Computer Vision Syndrome, which is effecting countless Australians of all ages and having a significant impact on productivity and general wellbeing.

 

CVS encompasses a group of eye and vision related problems that result from prolonged computer use. While they’re not thought to be permanent, symptoms of CVS are generally unpleasant and cause discomfort. The level of discomfort naturally increases with ongoing and continued use of the computer.

 

The most common symptoms are eyestrain, blurred vision and dry, itchy or burning eyes, which will often culminate in a headache or migraine. But of greater consequence, CVS is also thought to be having an impact on the incidence of Myopia (short-sightedness) with a study conducted by the National Eye Institute in the USA reporting the prevalence of near-sightedness increasing by around 66% over the past thirty years in America.

 

“CVS is similar to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or any of the repetitive stress injuries that occur when carrying out the same motion over and over again,” said Optometrist, Dr Jim Kokkinakis from The Eye Practice. 

 

“Working at a computer requires the eyes to continually focus and refocus, for instance when you’ve looked away from the screen to view paperwork on the desk and then back at the screen. The repetitive nature of this process requires quite a lot of effort from the eye muscles and they are likely to fatigue over an extended period, leading to CVS.

  

Working adults aren’t the only ones vulnerable to CVS. Today, kids rely heavily on computers as part of their everyday learning experiences at school and within the home. Compounding their educational computer usage is their love of video games.

 

“Kids also experience eye problems related to computer use, and this is of greater significance as young eyes are not properly developed and are ill-equipped to handle the stress that long term exposure to computer screens can cause to their visual system,” said Dr Kokkinakis.

 

“Many paediatric optometrists now believe that heavy computer use puts children at risk for early Myopia, which later in life can be associated with development of glaucoma and retinal detachment. If this trend continues the incidence of potentially blinding eye diseases may also increase. What seems to be clear is that children brought up in less developed rural environments with plenty of outdoor activity and lower reading demands seem to have less Myopia,” he said.

 

The American Optometric Association (AOA) reports that a survey of optometrists found that approximately 10 million eye examinations are performed annually in the United States due to vision problems related to computer use. According to Dr Jim Kokkinakis, we could conclude that computer related eye strain is as much an epidemic in Australia, as it is in the USA.

 

Said Dr Kokkinakis, “Anyone spending more than two continuous hours working on a computer every day is at greater risk for developing CVS. Tired eyes make mistakes and are responsible for lost productivity, so it’s not just a health epidemic, it has financial consequences, impacting the bottom line in the corporate world also.

 

Combating CVS: 

“To reduce the incidence of CVS involves taking steps to control flicker, lighting and glare on the computer screen, in addition to establishing better working practices to minimise the negative effect the computer is having on our eyes,” explained Dr Kokkinakis.

 

Manufacturers of computer monitors are investing in finding solutions to downgrade the impact their technology is having on eye health. Leading the charge is BenQ, who have launched their first in a series of new Flicker-free monitors designed to be easier on the eyes, minimising the likelihood of CVS.

 

While not detectible to the human eye, computer screens flicker continually. ‘Flicker’ is the fading between cycles displayed through video. It can be detected when you view a conventional monitor through a digital camera lens or smartphone set to record video. You will see the screen strobe – this flicker, coupled with the screen brightness and contrast, is largely responsible for causing the eyes to fatigue.

 

BenQ have incorporated a new technology into their monitors which eliminates the flicker and minimises glare to better protect the eyes. BenQ’s Flicker-free Technology will soon be a standard inclusion across a range of business, home and gaming monitors. Pricing will remain consistent, so choosing to upgrade your monitor for the benefit of your eyes won’t affect your hip pocket.

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