Protect your eyes at work and on the computer

People who use computers daily at work or home could suffer from computer vision syndrome, leaving them vulnerable to problems such as dry eye, eyestrain, neck and/or backache, light sensitivity and fatigue, according to the American Optometric Association.

Such symptoms can result from individual visual problems, poor workstation configuration and improper work habits.

Pre-existing, uncorrected vision problems such as farsightedness and astigmatism, inadequate eye focusing or eye coordination abilities, and age-related eye issues also contribute to computer vision syndrome.

Many of these symptoms are temporary and will improve after ceasing computer work. However, some individuals may continue to experience visual problems, such as blurred distance vision, even after computer work has stopped.

If the causes of the problem are not addressed, the symptoms will recur and perhaps worsen with future computer use.

According to the American Optometric Association, Americans should follow these guidelines to prevent or reduce eye and vision problems associated with computer vision syndrome:

_ Have your vision checked regularly. Prior to age 61, adults should have a comprehensive eye exam every two years, or as recommended by an eye doctor, and annually after that age. Vision and eye health can change rapidly and frequently, particularly as one ages.

_ Limit the amount of time you continuously use the computer. Practicing the 20/20 rule (looking away from the computer every 20 minutes for 20 seconds) will minimize the development of eye-focusing problems and eye irritation caused by infrequent blinking.

_ Check the height and arrangement of the computer. Optometrists suggest more comfortable computer viewing can be achieved when the eyes are looking downward. Optimally, the computer screen should be 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 the eyes.

_ Check for glare on the computer screen. Windows or other light sources should not be directly visible when sitting in front of the monitor. When this occurs, turn the desk or computer to prevent glare on the screen.

_ Reduce the amount of lighting in the room to match the computer screen. A smaller light can be substituted for a bright overhead light or a dimmer switch can be installed to give flexible control of room lighting. Turn three-way bulbs to the lowest setting.

_ Keep blinking. To minimize the chances of developing dry eye when using a computer, make an effort to blink frequently. Blinking keeps the front surface of the eye moist and is very important.

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