Solutions to avoid the stress from staring at computer screens for long

Are you one of those who spend a lot of time gazing at computer screens? Watch out, this is making you vulnerable to eye fatigue, dry eyes, vision discomfort, headaches and, of course, stress. Eye disorders consequent to computer use are now known as computer vision syndrome (CVS).

The fact is our eyes were not designed to gaze at electronic monitors for such long hours. Obviously, we can’t wish away the technological imperatives of the day and our tryst with computers is here to stay. But it is possible to reduce eye strain, and also refresh our eyes from time to time, even during a busy work day spent in front of the monitor. This calls for switching over to eye-friendly behaviour, besides adopting office ergonomics geared for visual comfort.

The way you see

When using computers, we tend to stare at the screen of the PC/tab/laptop from a fixed distance for long periods of time. “When we do this, it makes the contraction of our eye muscles static and fixed”, mentions Dr. A.G. Ramesh, senior ophthalmic surgeon, Abhinava Eye Clinic. How do we handle this? Adopt the 20-20-20 principle. After every 20 minutes spent poring over computer screens or printed documents, focus on any object 20 feet away, for 20 seconds. “This counters our eyes’ focus and eye muscles to get ‘locked up’ after gazing at a computer,” advises Dr. A.G. Ramesh.

Likewise, studies have found that when they work with computers, people blink just one-third as often as they would normally blink.

This triggers dry eyes. Besides, today’s office spaces tend to be air conditioned and drier than ambient air, which accentuates dryness on the eye surface. “So, remember to blink more often. And once every 20 minutes, blink 10 times very slowly. This will help moisten your eyes and de-stress eye muscles too. Additionally, tear substitutes as prescribed by your ophthalmologist may be used when the eye feels dry,” consultant ophthalmologist Dr. S. Gayatri recommends. If you sense your eyes feeling dry, you can gently splash cool, clean water into your eyes a couple of times a day.

Other eye-friendly practices include taking a small break from computer use after every hour, drinking plenty of water to keep your skin and eyes hydrated. As for the spectacles you wear, use lenses with anti reflective (AR) coating. Glasses are preferred over contact lens because contact lenses can cause friction and discomfort if the eye is not well lubricated.

Work station ergonomics

Improper illumination contributes to eye strain. Godrej Interio Ergonomics Cell’s study on lighting in office spaces found that 68 per cent of the surveyed workstations had improper illumination, with 58 per cent of it having ‘not enough’ illumination and the remaining 42 per cent having ‘excessive’ illumination. While badly designed offices and workstations contribute to this scenario, this might also be so because we simply don’t know what the optimal illumination is, for workplaces with computers.

“The ideal Illumination levels should be in the range of 240 to 400 LUX for computer usage and routine office work,” informs Parag A. Shastry, chief ergonomist, Godrej Interio Ergonomics Cell.

Seating arrangements can make a difference too. Dr A.G. Ramesh recommends that the table and the chair be adjustable so that each person sits in a way that the top of the monitor is at, or below his eye level (about 10 to 15 degrees below eye level).

The monitor should be at a 20-24 inch distance from the eyes. He further recommends use of flat-panel liquid crystal display (LCD) monitors which have an anti-reflective surface, are flicker-free and with the highest resolution possible. And go for large display screens size of at least 19 inches, and adjust your screen so that it displays a comfortable and good contrast - neither too little, nor too much.

Likewise, locate the monitor such that the windows are at the side, rather than behind the monitor or directly facing it. Avoid working directly under overhead fluorescent lights. Offices could opt for matte finish and shades of wall colour that don’t cause glare.

And finally, even if your vision seems normal, do not forget your comprehensive annual eye check up. Dr A.G. Ramesh advises, “Even though a person might be having good vision, he may have focusing problems while working on the computer. Ophthalmologists can prescribe the right glasses and protect him/her from vision problems”, After all, isn’t sight too precious to be neglected?