IN DAYS gone by, children were often warned that reading in
poor light or in awkward positions would "ruin" their eyes.
Fortunately, problems rarely ensued. Not so among today's computer
users; many experience preventable eye or vision problems.
With images on a computer screen fast supplanting the printed
word, complaints about vision-related problems like eyestrain,
blurry vision, headaches and neck aches are multiplying rapidly.
Millions of people, from preschool ages on, who work or play the
day away on video display terminals are suffering needlessly,
Although vision and eye problems have been overshadowed by
carpal tunnel syndrome as a debilitating hazard of prolonged
computer use, they are actually more common and should not be
ignored. Virtually all can be corrected - and avoided - with proper
adjustments in the work environment and the user's position in
relation to the screen.
Although there is no evidence of permanent visual damage from
the prolonged use of VDTs, even temporary impairments can be
troublesome. The problems can occasionally be dangerous; for
example, if computer use at work impairs distance vision, driving
home could be hazardous.
First, the good news. Repeated tests have shown that video
display terminals do not emit hazardous radiation - neither
ultraviolet nor ionizing radiation - so even daily use for decades
should not cause cataracts or retinal damage. Nor is there evidence
that computer use causes permanent myopia, or nearsightedness, or
speeds development of myopia any more than reading books might.
However, several surveys of people who work at video display
terminals indicate that up to 75 percent experience one or more
reversible vision or eye problems. The American Optometric
Association has coined a name for the complaints: computer vision
syndrome. Symptoms may include any or all of the following:
Temporary myopia, the inability to focus clearly on distant
objects for a few minutes to a few hours after using the computer.
Eyestrain or eye fatigue, a tired, aching heaviness of the
eyelids or forehead.
Blurred vision for near or far objects, and sometimes double
vision or afterimages.
Dry, irritated or watery eyes.
Increased sensitivity to light.
Headaches, neck aches, backaches and muscle spasms from holding
the body in awkward positions to maintain a desirable angle between
eyes and screen.
Why should computer use cause such problems when reading a book
or papers for hours on end rarely does? The American Academy of
Ophthalmology and optometrists who study computer-related problems
say several factors apply especially to computer use:
Poor position in relation to the computer.
Lighting that produces glare or reflections, fuzzy images or
images that are too dim or even too bright.
Failure to blink often enough to moisten the surface of the
Use of corrective lenses that are inappropriate for the user's
position and distance from the screen.
Minor visual defects that might go unnoticed if not exaggerated
by i ntense computer use.
For example, Dr. Kent M. Daum, an optometrist at the University
of Alabama School of Optometry in Birmingham, showed that minor and
otherwise unnoticed refractive errors, astigmatisms or imbalances
between the eyes can cause pronounced discomfort after as little as
half an hour at the computer. …