Eye Strain as a Result ofComputer Use


Heather McCown

Stephen F. Austin State University

February 18, 1999

In the twentieth century, technology is at an all time high in theworld. This technology includes research, stock market shares,computers, medical advances, and a vast variety of other things.Among the advanced technology is a break through of computer use.Almost everyone at sometime in their day is using a computer for onetask or another. Computers have taken the world and reshaped thepossibilities of ideas and dreams in the past decade. Millions ofpeople are using a computer daily according to

Anshel (1996). This work on the computer can ran range from fiveminutes a day to eight hours a day depending on they type of job aperson holds. Today's job market, employees are accustomed to workingwith a computer. This could include data entry clerks, an internetconsultant, a bank teller, a librarian, and especially secretaries.The field is open to just about anyone. Often overlooked are thestudents that use computers on a daily basis. Many college studentsdepend on the use of computers classes whether it be for fun orrecreational use.

Sometimes the convience of using computers comes with a high priceto pay. The National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety(NIOSH) says that eyestrain is the leading problem in computer use.This even exceeds such common problems as carpal tunnel syndrome.(Atencio 1996) Eyestrain and eye fatigue lead to many othercomplications if it is a continuous problem. One of these problemsincludes myopia. There are many ways of relieving eye fatigue andhelping the symptoms of myopia. These problems can be onset inyounger years when children are in school. Since most schools in thecountry are using computers as a main source of education, eyestraincan be a linked to myopia. There are many options people or companieshave to improve the conditions under which the person is working.

Eyestrain is defined as blurred or double vision, burning,irritation, headaches, gritty eye sensation, eye fatigue, neck andshoulder pain, color perception change, decreased visual efficiency,more frequent errors and reduced efficiency. (Atencio 1996, Palmer1993, Nunoo 1997) Eyestrain is also known as asthenopia. It simplymeans visual strain. (Palmer 1993) Dr. Paul F. Bommarito also saidthat 88% of heavy computer users experience these problems. (Fletcher1996) Palmer suggest that eye fatigue is often caused by the eyemuscles becoming tired much like other muscles in our body. Oncethese muscles tire, the symptoms start to occur. If this is continueddaily, the visual strain will become part of the visual routine whileworking at the computer. (1993) Problems can occur from eyestrain ifit is not recognized. Most of these problem are not long-term effectsbut do need consideration when working to improve the conditions.Eyestrain is developed from looking at a visual display terminal(VDT) for amounts of time that your eyes are not accustomed to doing.(Pealer, Dorman 1998). This is because we are used to looking at ahard copy. A researcher mentions that many computer operators havereported seeing color changes while working. This is due to the colorafter effect. The color after effect relates to fatigue in areas thatcode different colors. It is also known as the McCollough effect.While using a computer we are continuously watching a screen thatflickers. This interaction also produces the symptoms of eyestrain.(Palmer 1993)

Myopia is a common side effect of eye fatigue and strain. Myopiais also commonly known as having nearsighted vision. As the wordexplains, you see clearer when things are close to you. There is anotable correlation with myopia and eye elongation. (Drexler, et al1998) Palmer also notes that it is related to accommodation. Sheindicates that the ciliary muscles focus the lens while the eyeshifts to different spots and distances. While reading or doingnearwork our lenses are contracted therefore causing tiredness. Oncenearwork is through, often at the end of a work day, the lens is ableto uncontract and relax. (Palmer 1993) When working with computersand looking at VDT's it is associated with near or close work.(Anshel 1996, Drexler, et al 1998) This idea has drawn much attentionto the ophthalmic profession. (Drexler, et al 1998) Often the case isthat the operator of the computer is already myopic. This increasesthe chance of the condition worsening if the doctor doesn't knowabout the work environment. The operator should make the environmentaware to the doctor. More times than not, the doctor will prescribeglasses to improve the myopia.

Many companies and computer software technicians are trying tocombat this issue of eyestrain and fatigue. It has been studied inmany different settings. They have come up with very productive waysof effectively relieving some of the symptoms that cause eyestrain.These symptoms include glare, the monitor itself, lighting, vision,position of the VDT, and even taking eye breaks. ( Nunoo 1997,Fletcher 1996, Atencio 1996) Here are some of the techniques thatresearches have come up with to help prevent eyestrain. Manyresearchers have found that if you put a mirror in front of the

computer, then it will help direct you to the source of the glare.(Nunoo 1997, Atencio 1996) To reduce glare radiating from a computerit is suggested not using fluorescent lighting. (Nunoo 1997)Computers shouldn't be placed on high finished tables either. Thelow-shine helps eleviate glare as well. Also, terminals shouldn't benear windows. If that isn't possible then the windows should becovered with vertical blinds. (Atencio 1996)

The position of the monitor or VDT should be also taken intoaccount. Researchers at the University of North Carolina at ChapelHill have determined the correct position and length from the monitorthat you should sit. The monitor should be straight in front of youso that the screen is eye level. To adjust your monitor to meet thisrequirement you might want to stack books or magazines under themonitor itself. The eye to screen distance should be somewhere in thevicinity of 16-30 inches. The person using the computer stationshould always keep the monitor wiped off with a type of static guardspray for monitors and a lint free towel. This will help the visualfield. Correcting the lighting in an area that will have muchcomputer use will prevent some of the eyestrain. To do this there isa need for indirect lighting and putting the computers away from thelights. Making this possible, the computers would have to be putwhere the lighting is not right on top of the terminals. In mostcases, this is impossible for a working environment. Researcherssuggest putting the computers between the rows of lights to preventdirect lighting. (1996)

There are many ways to help reduce the eye fatigue you mightexperience throughout the day. Atencio suggests taking mini-vacationsfrom the computer while at work. She refers this to be taken everytwo hours. (1996) In many job situations that is not possible. Manytimes you cannot leave your work station for more than a lunch break.One researcher suggests different ways to battle eye fatigue if thatis the predicament.

One way is to scan long distances for a few seconds every sooften. You can apply pressure with your fingers to check ridge justbelow the eye, press at the outside corner of the eye, and press onthe ridge of nose where the eye connects. Another suggestion is to doeye exercises. This involves closing you eye and moving them in aright to left direction and an up to down direction. Doing thisdifferent times of the day will also help. Regular check ups with theopthamologist will also aid in the prevention of eye strain. (Atencio1996)

Students use of computers are a daily activity in many schools.This is to keep up with the fast moving world of technology,research, and science. Researchers have come to an agreement thatthis could actually be harmful, if not properly managed, for thechildren of our future generation. The question of today is if itputs our children's vision at risk for the problems we see in adults.(Palmer 1993) Students with low vision have even a harder time withthe use of computers due to the effects of eye strain. (Kobayashi,Tanaka, & Okuzumi 1996) If our advances keep reaching new heightsthen researchers will have to be aware of these problems facing theyouth and try even harder to correct the problems.

Eyestrain and asthenopia are growing obstacles facing the computergeneration of today and tomorrow. The good news for computer users isthat there are not long-term effects to contend with. The mostpermanent effect is the result of myopia due to the close work thatis done. Myopia is very common for people, not only computer users.It is enhanced by the use of computers. The correction of lighting,glare, monitor distance, eye exercises, and vision checkups with allhelp the symptoms that accompany eyestrain and fatigue. (Atencio1996) To help fight this problem with the future of tomorrow parentsand teachers need to keep a check on the children and the amount ofwork they are doing on computers. Today's world is bombarded withcircumstances that need the help of a computer. It is virtuallyinevitable to get around with out some kind of computer contact.

With this in mind, maybe the eye problems the public faces will beless traumatic with the knowledge to help.




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