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June 18, 2014: Computer Eyestrain: 5 Steps for Relief

With so many people using computers at work, eyestrain has become one of the leading office-related health complaints. Experts estimate 50 to 90% of computer users experience some degree of eyestrain or other symptoms of computer vision syndrome (CVS) during their work day. Studies show eyestrain and CVS often cause fatigue, decreased productivity and more work errors. S So what can you do about it? Here are steps you (and your employer) can take to reduce computer eye strain and the other common symptoms of computer vision syndrome (CVS):

1. Get a computer eye exam.
This is the most important thing you can do to prevent computer vision problems. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, computer users should have an eye exam before they start working on a computer and once yearly thereafter. Be sure to tell your eye doctor how often you use a computer at work and at home.

2. Use proper lighting.
Computer eyestrain is often caused by excessively bright ambient lighting-- either from outdoor sunlight coming in through a window or from harsh interior lighting. For the most comfortable computer use, ambient lighting should be about half as bright as that found in most offices. If possible, reduce the brightness of interior lighting by using fewer fluorescent tubes in overhead light fixtures or use lower intensity bulbs. If possible, position your monitor so that windows are to the side of it, instead of in front or back. Adjust window blinds to reduce the amount of sunlight entering your workstation.

3. Minimize glare.
Glare on walls and finished surfaces as well as reflections on the computer screen can also cause computer eyestrain. You may want to install an anti-glare screen on your monitor and, if possible, paint bright white walls a darker color with a matte finish. Again, cover the windows. When outside light cannot be reduced, consider using a computer hood. If you wear glasses, have an anti-reflective coating applied to your lenses. This anti-reflective coating reduces glare by minimizing the amount of light reflecting off the front and back surfaces of your eyeglass lenses.

4. Upgrade your display.
If you've not already done so, replace your old tube-style monitor (called a cathode ray tube or CRT) with a flat panel liquid crystal display (LCD), like those on laptop computers. LCD screens are easier on the eyes and usually have an anti-reflective surface. Old-fashioned CRT screens can cause a “flicker” of images on the screen. Even if this flicker is imperceptible, it can still contribute to eyestrain and fatigue during computer work. Flat panel displays with high resolution and large diagonal screen size (at least 19 inches) are best to prevent eye fatigue.

5. Adjust the brightness and contrast of your computer screen.
For more comfortable viewing, adjust the display settings on your computer so the brightness of the screen is about the same as your work environment. Adjust the screen settings to make sure the contrast between the screen background and the on-screen characters is high. Make sure that the text size and color are optimized for the most comfort. Usually, black text on a white background is the best color combination.