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Computers and Eye Fatigue

Computers and Eye Fatigue

As computers have taken on a larger role in our everyday lives, symptoms of eye fatigue are more commonplace.

One of the most significant changes to the modern office over the last 18 years has been the introduction of the personal computer (PC).

As more people use computers in the workplace complaints of eye fatigue, difficulty focusing and discomfort have become commonplace. In America alone, 10 million eye examinations are conducted each year because of problems caused by personal computers.

Symptoms of Eye Fatigue

Headaches are one of the most common 'discomfort' symptoms of eye fatigue and are the primary reason most people seek an eye examination. Visual headaches most often occur towards the front of the head and usually in the middle or the end of the day.

Dry and irritated eyes are another common occurrence in today's workplace. Studies have shown that while staring at a monitor, users 'forget' to blink which deprives the eye of moisture. This is exacerbated by the dry air of many office environments.

Other symptoms of workplace eye fatigue can include eyestrain, blurred vision, slow refocusing, light sensitivity, changes in colour perception and double vision.

What Causes Eye Fatigue?

Eye fatigue is primarily a result of overworking the muscles of the eyes and can be caused by poor lighting, glare from surrounding light sources or windows, improper viewing distance, or poor workplace design.

How Can Eye Fatigue be Prevented?

There are several things you can do to create a more eye-friendly work environment. 

Your monitor should be squarely in front of you and a little further away than you normally read (approx 40-45cm), with the top of the monitor level with your eyes. Adjustable chairs with full back support allow the user to select the most comfortable height. 

If reading a source document while typing, use a document holder and position it right next to the monitor at the same height. This will minimise head and eye movements and focusing changes. 

Lighting should be arranged so reflections and glare are minimised. Sometimes standard office lighting is too bright for comfortable PC use. If it's not practical to modify your office lighting then hoods, neutral density or micromesh filters for the PC may help. A monitor that has both contrast and brightness controls can also be effective in reducing glare. 

Periodic rest breaks are also very important. You should rest your eyes briefly, at least every 30-60 minutes, by taking a break, doing a simple exercise or doing a non-computer related task. Frequent blinking will also lubricate the eyes and prevent them from drying out.

The good news is uncomfortable eye fatigue caused by personal computers will not damage your vision. Simply rearranging your computer workstation, taking frequent rest breaks, or getting appropriate spectacles or contact lenses can often relieve the symptoms.