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June 30, 2014: Five more tips to prevent Computer Vision Syndrome

1. Blink more often.
Blinking is very important—it rewets your eyes to keep them moist, comfortable and clear. Studies show that, during computer use, most people blink only about 20% as frequently as they normally do. This greatly increases the risk for dry eyes, blurred vision, eye irritation and fatigue. To keep your eyes comfortable and seeing well during computer use, try this exercise: Every 20 minutes, blink 10 times by closing your eyes as if falling asleep (very slowly). This will help rewet your eyes. Also, keep a bottle of artificial tears at your workplace and use them to moisten your eyes often during prolonged computer use. Ask your eye doctor to recommend the best brands for your needs.

2. Exercise your eyes.
Another cause of computer eyestrain is focusing fatigue. Research shows that it's harder for our eyes to maintain focus on computer-generated images than on printed images in a book or magazine. To reduce your risk of focusing fatigue during computer use, look away from your screen or monitor every 20 minutes and gaze at a distant object across the room. Another exercise is to look far away at an object for 10-15 seconds, then gaze at something up close for 10-15 seconds—then look back at the distant object again. Do this 10 times. This exercise reduces the risk of your eyes' focusing system from “locking up” (a condition called accommodative spasm) during prolonged computer work.

3. Take frequent breaks.
Take frequent, short breaks from your computer work throughout the day. Stand up, walk away from your work station and stretch your arms, legs, back, neck and shoulders. These activities will reduce your risk for computer vision syndrome and neck, back, and shoulder pain Many workers take only two 15-minute breaks from their computer during their work day. According to a recent NIOSH study, computer workers experienced significantly less discomfort and eyestrain if they took four additional 5-minute “mini-breaks” during the day. Interestingly, these supplementary breaks did not reduce productivity. Data entry speed was significantly faster as a result of the extra breaks, so work output was maintained even though the worker had 20 extra minutes of break time each day.

4. Modify your workstation.
Looking back and forth between a printed page and your computer screen (as during data entry tasks) can also cause eyestrain. To improve comfort during these tasks, place the print material on a copy stand adjacent to your screen or monitor. If necessary use a desk lamp to illuminate the print material—but make sure it doesn't shine into your eyes or onto the computer screen. Improper posture during computer work also contributes to computer vision syndrome. Adjust your workstation and chair to a comfortable height so your feet are flat on the floor in front of you. Adjust your chair and computer so your screen is approximately 20-24 inches from your eyes and slightly below eye level so you can view it comfortably with your head and neck in a natural position.

5. Consider computer eyewear.
For the greatest comfort at your computer, you may benefit from having a customized eyeglasses prescription for your computer work. This is especially true if you normally wear contact lenses that can become dry and uncomfortable during sustained computer work. Computer glasses are also a good choice if you normally wear eyeglasses with bifocal or progressive lenses. Though these lenses provide excellent vision for most tasks, they don't provide an adequate viewing zone for prolonged computer work. Your eye doctor can prescribe specially-designed computer eyewear to give you the best possible vision at your computer screen. Keep in mind that computer glasses are a specific type of eyewear and typically should not be worn when driving.