Computer Vision Syndrome
Computer vision syndrome is a constellation of symptoms that can occur during computer use:
- dry eyes
- blurred vision
- double vision
There is no clear evidence that focusing up close on technology provokes different symptoms from those experienced during other forms of close-up work. The condition is not associated with any long term effects and is not associated with any anatomic defect. There is no data currently to show that there is permanent damage to the surface of the eye or any pathology of the eye that accompanies working at the computer. The condition does not cause refractive errors, such as near-sightedness (myopia), far sightedness (hyperopia), or astigmatism. The symptoms are self-limited and related to prolonged focusing.
Because the imagery on a computer, TV, or a hand-held digital device is visually interesting, people tend to stare and not blink as much. With reduced blinking, dry spots form on the ocular surface which causes irritation. Evaporation of the tear film is a major contributor to computer vision problems. The symptoms are very similar for patients who experience dry eyes due to other activities with intense or prolonged concentration, such a proofreaders, truck drivers, etc.
Although vision can be impacted temporarily, symptoms fortunately resolve once the activity is discontinued. If symptoms do not improve in a short period of time, then another diagnosis may be present. For example, children who have difficulty focusing on their homework or have headaches with focusing may have other diagnoses besides computer vision syndrome. The double vision of computer vision syndrome is really an optical aspect of the perception of blurred vision. However, the symptoms of double vision should be considered cautiously. If the patient's eyes are actually out of alignment, then the diagnosis of strabismus needs to be considered as this has a very real and significant impact on a child’s visual development, depth perception, and cortical fusion. Also, dry eyes are underdiagnosed in children, particularly in areas with a high incidence of allergies. In some cases a child may have chronic dry eyes with complaints being noted primarily during their computer work. An assessment of tear film stability and production can help differentiate between the intermittent dry eye state of computer vision syndrome and a more chronic condition of tear film insufficiency.
Treatments with special tinted glasses, wrap around glasses, and monitor tinting have been marketed by various companies but are generally not effective based on clinical studies. There have also been companies who market vitamins to address computer vision syndrome, but these have also not been supported by clinical trials. The vitamins that affect ocular health have been found effective for some patients with macular degeneration, but not computer vision syndrome. Effective treatment involves addressing any clinically significant refractive error with glasses, taking breaks from computer work periodically, and using artificial tears prior to and during a computer activity. Additionally, parents may be able to reduce eye strain by adjusting the ambient light, glare, screen resolution, font size, and screen viewing distance.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Guidelines recommend limiting TV/Video Games/Computer activity to no more than 2 hours per day for children over the age of 2. Additionally, the AAP Guidelines does not recommend TV for children under age 2.
If parents are concerned their child’s symptoms, they should ask their child’s eye care specialist or pediatric ophthalmologist during their annual visit whether the child’s symptoms are due to CVS or some other condition.