Saturday, June 07, 2008

Time on the computer taxes the eyes

Avoiding eye problems with computer displays ...

"Unheeded and taken to its extreme, computer eyestrain can evolve into a condition called "spasm of the near reflex." Relatively rare, this condition leaves eyes focused at the depth of a computer screen, locked in the work mode.

"It's sort of the end stage of the fatigue phenomenon," says Dr. Kent M. Daum, vice president and dean of academic affairs at the Illinois College of Optometry. "Although it's not permanent, it can last months and years. And it's just a devil of a thing to treat."

Far more common is a condition called computer eye syndrome. Symptoms should provide strong signals to change work and vision habits long before spasm of the near reflex occurs, Daum said.

... Red eyes, blurry vision and headaches are just a few symptoms of computer eye syndrome. It is a condition that affects not only how people feel, but also how they work, he said.

"We estimated very, very conservatively that in certain situations computer eyestrain can reduce productivity by 2 to 3 percent," Daum said.

Ways to protect eyes from computer strain, Daum said, include:

Get your eyes checked. "It seems kind of obvious, but a lot of people have no clue how they're really seeing," Daum said. So if you need glasses or contact lenses, get them.

Older people in particular should consider a special pair of glasses when using their computers. Bifocals and computers don't mix well. "If you use your bifocals, you sort of end up hunching forward, then you tip your head back," Daum said. "There are lots of people who are trying to use their bifocals on their computers . . . they get all these neck and shoulder and upper back problems."

Be sensitive to lighting. "Computers are just set up to give you problems with reflections," Daum said. "You shouldn't have any windows in your field of view. You shouldn't have any light bulbs at all. Your screen should be perfectly clear without glare." Lighting in a room should match the computer screen.

Follow the 20/20 rule. "Every 20 minutes look away from your computer for 20 seconds," Daum said. That helps keep the focusing system pliable.

Remember to blink. "When you concentrate, your blink rate goes down," Daum said.

Use good ergonomics. "People's computers sometimes just get plopped on the desk," Daum said. "The monitor should be straight in front of you. You should be sitting in a comfortable chair. You should have rests for your wrists and your forearms."    (Continued via OregonLive.com)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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