Forty-one percent of Americans spend at least three hours a day in front of a computer or handheld device. A typical modern workday, perhaps, but it often amounts to medieval torture for the eyes and upper body, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA). More than 40 percent of 1,000 adults the group surveyed cited problems with eye strain, as well as neck or back pain.
“It’s a simple fatigue process,” explains Kent Daum, vice president and dean for academic affairs at the Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago. Symptoms almost always abate after the work is done, and there’s no damage to the eyes.
Still, so-called computer vision syndrome causes a great deal of needless discomfort and lost productivity. Take the person wearing traditional bifocals designed for reading printed material. When reading a computer screen that’s higher and farther away, this person typically “hunches over the machine to get closer, and tips the head back,” says Daum. Ouch. In this case the solution requires a special pair of glasses, Daum says, but often it’s closer at hand.
The AOA, which released its survey results in March, advises computer users to:
- Look away from the computer every 20 minutes for 20 seconds, and blink frequently to moisten the eyes.
- Make sure the room is neither significantly darker nor lighter than the computer screen.
- Eliminate glare from windows or other light sources.
- Arrange your screen 4 to 5 inches below eye level and at a distance of 20 to 28 inches.