do computer screens damage your eyes?

July 15, 2010 | In: Medical facts

Complaints about tired and uncomfortable eyes often go hand in hand with spending a lot of time in front of a computer screen. Although these symptoms, which are commonly known as eyestrain, are annoying, they do not signal that your eyes are being damaged by working with a video display terminal, according to Dr. Richard Mills, professor and vice chair of ophthalmology at the University of Washington.

The continuous nature of the activity and the reading distances typically associated with computers can make for eye irritation, fatigue and difficulty focusing. However, there is no convincing scientific evidence that video display terminals are harmful to your eyes, Mills points out. Your eyes are simply responding to increased demands.

Usually changing the way you work at your computer will relieve eyestrain. That might mean changing the arrangement of your workstation. Sometimes that even means a change in your corrective lenses or wearing them while working at a computer, even if you don’t normally wear glasses.

People tend to stare at a computer screen. This can cause the focusing muscles of the eye to cramp, making it hard to focus on objects at different distances when you look away from the screen. As they stare, many computer users forget to blink.

Reflections and glare from the screen can lead to tired, aching eyes. Glare usually comes from sunlight or office lighting that’s too bright. In certain conditions, even light-colored clothing can cause an annoying reflection off the screen. An anti-glare filter can make a big difference in how a worker feels after an eight-hour day.

Computer screens are wonderful magnets for dust. The film of dust that builds up on the screen blurs the image and makes your eyes work harder as they try to resolve the blur.

If your days in front of a computer leave your eyes watery, red and tired, or you find it hard to focus, we suggests trying the following:

* Take rest breaks and remember to blink often to keep your eyes moist.
* Keep your computer screen free of dust.
* Try adjusting the lighting around your work area to minimize reflection and glare. If dimming the lighting isn’t workable, use an anti-glare filter.
* Adjust the position of your computer screen. Most people find it most comfortable to have the top of their computer screen at or slightly below eye level and a little farther away than they normally read. If you are using reference material, try placing it at a similar distance from your eyes.
* Check with your ophthalmologist or optometrist. He or she can prescribe the proper corrective lenses, if needed, and check for any eye disease that might be causing the symptoms. If you already wear glasses, particularly bifocals, trifocals or reading glasses, you may need a new prescription because the distance and position of a computer screen is a usually different from other things you read. Sit as you normally would at your computer and measure the distance from your eyes to your screen. Take that information along to your exam so that the members of your eye care team will be able to calculate the best lens power for you and, if needed, the proper bifocal height.

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