Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Darn Those Screens

Avoiding vision trouble with small screens ...

"Earlier this month, a bill was introduced in New York State banning the use of hand-held computers and cellphones while crossing the street, citing the deaths of several tragically preoccupied pedestrians. Fortunately, failing to observe oncoming traffic is not the sort of vision problem that plagues the average user of a personal digital assistant like the BlackBerry. Instead, most people are far more likely to suffer "computer vision syndrome," a cluster of symptoms including headaches or neck aches, dry, irritated eyes, sensitivity to light, and blurred or double vision.

The syndrome was first identified in the early '90s, but the proliferation of teeny-weeny screens has "terrific potential to make small problems worse," says Kent Daum, associate professor of optometry at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. With their tiny type and screens that fade out in bright sunlight, electronic gadgets can accelerate the onset of computer-related vision problems, says Jeffrey Anshel, an optometrist in Encinitas, Calif., who consults with companies like 3M, American Airlines, and Starbucks on visual ergonomics.

At its worst, the syndrome can cause serious-though temporary-vision problems. After extended periods of close work like reading, writing, or text messaging, a small number of people experience a sort of muscle spasm in their eyes that makes it impossible to focus on faraway objects. Until these computer users give their eyes a rest-a good night's sleep is usually enough-they can't focus at a distance. "The fact is, their eyes are so burned out at the end of the day," says Anshel, "that they have pseudo myopia or transient-induced myopia due to tired, overstressed eyes."

Fortunately, most people experience only the more benign symptoms, such as dry eyes, headaches, or a strain or ache inside the eye. But even such easy-to-ignore symptoms can eat away at your comfort and affect your job performance, says Stephen Glasser, a Washington, D.C., optometrist, resulting in "decreased efficiency, comprehension problems, and interpretation problems." PDA devotees know the symptoms. "If I use my PDA for more than 10 or 15 minutes, I need to put on my glasses or else my eyes get strained and things start getting blurry," says Bruce Miller, 55, of Seattle, a webmaster for a trade association."    (Continued via USNews)    [Ergonomics Resources]

Small Screen Vision Strain - Ergonomics

Small Screen Vision Strain

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