Sitting in front of a computer the entire day is not optimal for your health, yet it is often unavoidable in today’s workplace in the digital era. If you work on a computer all day long, you may experience headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, fatigue and eyestrain in addition to back, neck and shoulder pain. These symptoms are often an indication of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) which can develop from focusing your eyes on a computer screen for a protracted, uninterrupted period of time. The level of discomfort you feel is likely to increase the longer you sit in front of the screen.

These symptoms are further aggravated by poor lighting, glare on the screen, improper viewing distance, poor seating posture and uncorrected vision problems or a combination of all of these factors.

Here are a number of tips that can help prevent the development of CVS when you spend a lot of time in front of a screen.

Firstly, position your screen and adjust the lighting in your office so that you reduce the amount of glare as much as possible. Glare is the main cause of eye strain so use blinds or curtains on windows to control the amount of light entering the room. If glare is caused from overhead lights within the room, use a dimmer or replace light bulbs with lower wattage bulbs. If you still find that you are having problems with glare, anti-glare screens are available to help filter light reflected from the screen. One can assess for glare by turning off the screen and seeing if there are any reflections on the screen.

Secondly, adjust your monitor height for maximum eye comfort by positioning your screen 15 to 20 degrees below eye level (about 4 or 5 inches) as measured from the center of the screen and 20 to 28 inches from your eyes. If you use reference materials, aim to position them above the keyboard and below the monitor instead of on the side of the screen or flat on your desk. This is so that you do not need to move your head to look from the document to the screen. If this is not possible, use a document holder. Proper positioning in the workplace is called ergonomics and can greatly affect your overall comfort and reduce the negative effects of sitting at a desk for long periods of time.

Try to make sure that you are conscious of the amount of time you are staring at your screen. Make an effort to blink frequently to prevent the surface of your eye from drying out, as your blink rate decreases when looking at a screen. This is especially relevant if you are wearing contact lenses. Further, it is important to take periodic breaks from looking at your monitor. Try to apply the 20/20/20 rule. This means taking a 20-second break every 20 minutes to focus your eyes on objects 20 feet away. This can prevent eyestrain and help your eyes refocus.

It is also wise to adjust your monitor’s display settings. Looking at a text on your computer requires your eyes to work harder than usual and differs from reading a printed page. People that had surgical correction on their vision often do not wear glasses but still have mild vision problems that could benefit from part-time wear of glasses for demanding visual tasks such as lengthy use of the computer. Often letters on the screen are not as sharply defined and the level of contrast of the letters to the background is reduced. A simple display alteration can save your eyes from strain.

If you spend a few hours each day sitting at the computer and you think you have CVS, speak to your eye doctor about the possibility of getting computer glasses. Computer glasses have a customized lens prescription and special lens coatings that prevent eye fatigue while viewing the computer. Proper lenses, positioning and work conditions as well as correct viewing habits will go a long way to help alleviate Computer Vision Syndrome.