Computer vision syndrome is an umbrella term given to several eye-related issues which result from prolonged computer, smartphone and tablet use. Many individuals experience computer vision syndrome after looking at a digital screen for extended periods. There is often a direct correlation between the level of discomfort experienced by the sufferer and the amount of time they spend looking at or working on a screen.
Recent reports suggest that the number of cases of computer vision syndrome has been on the rise since the COVID-19 pandemic hit (source). Many of us are now working from home when previously we would have been stationed at a desk in an office. It is important to know how to prevent computer vision syndrome by making the necessary adjustments.
This guide will cover the following:
The definition of computer vision syndrome and the common symptoms to look out for.
Find out what computer ergonomics means and why it is important to follow the correct computer ergonomics.
Read our tips for adjusting your home environment to ensure you work comfortably and don’t develop computer vision syndrome.
Read frequently asked questions on how to prevent computer vision syndrome at home.
What exactly is computer vision syndrome?
Computer vision syndrome is a blanket term given to common health issues which arise from regular computer use, usually when the correct ergonomics are not in place. Looking at a computer screen for prolonged periods causes the eyes to work harder, which in turn can cause problems in those susceptible to the development of vision-related symptoms. Digital screens can also decrease the eye’s blink rate by up to two thirds (source). This causes eye soreness to be exaggerated, as blinking keeps the cornea lubricated and removes any debris. Some of the most common symptoms of computer vision syndrome include:
Headaches can be caused by glare from a computer screen, poor lighting in the workspace, improper computer screen brightness, high colour settings on a computer screen or a combination of each of these factors. A headache related to computer vision syndrome can be identified as a general dull pain around the eyes, at the back of the eyes and/or at the sides of the head.
Looking at a screen for prolonged periods can cause sore eyes. Brightness, incorrect workplace lighting levels and spending too long using “short sight” to stare at a screen instead of taking regular breaks to concentrate on items further afield (such as those in the distance outside of a window) can exacerbate soreness of the eyes. Staring at a bright screen can also cause dry eye issues, which can be rectified with eye drops.
Concentrating too hard on information displayed on a screen can cause computer strain related vision problems. Sometimes this is caused by the information being too small on the display, meaning that the computer user must put extra effort in to understand it.
Prolonged periods of staring at a screen can cause blurred vision and eye fatigue. Excess blue light, using short sight to view a screen and poor lighting levels can all contribute to blurry vision, especially after too much screen time.
Neck and shoulder pain
A combination of poor posture, an incorrect desk setup, a poorly positioned monitor and unsuitable seating can cause neck and shoulder pain during prolonged computer use. This is particularly prevalent at home offices and has been a common complaint among those transitioning to working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. When working in an office, your employer has a duty of care to provide you with the correct equipment to make the working environment safe and comfortable. Your employer has the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as for any other workers (source). If you are experiencing neck and back pain at home, you can ask your employer to provide assistance where necessary.
What is computer ergonomics, and why is it important?
Computer ergonomics is the practice of setting up a workspace to match the user’s needs to minimise physical stress. The goal of computer ergonomics is to optimise the “fit” between a worker and their environment to reduce any risk of injury. It is important to have the correct computer ergonomics in place because working at a computer for prolonged periods can be harmful to your health. Computer ergonomics can hugely reduce the symptoms of computer vision syndrome. If you are currently experiencing health problems or vision issues due to poor computer ergonomics, it may be worthwhile making some adjustments to your current workstation. It is important to address these issues sooner rather than later, preferably before mild symptoms become worse and affect your ability to perform your daily work tasks.
You can read our full guide to the importance of computer ergonomics here.
Adjusting your home environment
The following tips can help prevent computer vision syndrome or reduce its symptoms:
Adjust your computer brightness
The brightness of your computer monitor should complement the amount of light in your workspace— normal office brightness measures between 300-500 lux. To compensate for the brightness of your surroundings, your display brightness should be adjusted to somewhere between 100 and 150 cd/m2. However, if your home office is brighter or darker than your standard workplace office, you may need to adjust your computer brightness accordingly.
Wear anti-glare glasses
Anti-glare computer glasses are designed to eliminate reflections from the front and back surfaces of your lenses. This is incredibly beneficial when working in front of a computer screen and will help you to feel more comfortable while working at a desk for prolonged periods.
Avoid leaning forward and slouching
Incorrect posture can aggravate eyestrain. This is because your eyes have to work harder to face in the direction of the screen. In addition to straining the eye muscles, leaning forward and slouching can also cause neck and shoulder pain. Ideally, you should sit upright with your hips far back in the chair. Lower back support is recommended to encourage the natural ‘S’ curve of the spine. This will help to reduce eyesight and posture problems associated with computer vision syndrome. It will also help to improve your overall physical wellbeing while working from home.
Raise your monitor or laptop
If your monitor or laptop is too low, you will be more likely to slouch and squint at the screen. When you raise your monitor, this will help you to maintain optimum posture. Laptops in particular are often too low, and they are more difficult to adjust as the keyboard is connected to the screen. Although you should try and work from a monitor where possible, a laptop arm can raise the laptop so it is more ergonomic.
Are you working on a laptop at home? Read our guide to working on a laptop ergonomically.
Vision H Monitor and Laptop Stand
The new Vision H monitor and laptop stand has been designed specially to provide ergonomic support to home workers. Adjustable to a range of heights, this stylish and compact design helps prevent issues related to poor posture, such as repetitive strain injury and neck, shoulder and back pain.
Ensure your chair is the correct height
Proper height adjustment of your chair can help prevent symptoms of computer vision syndrome. It can alleviate lower back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome, too. The good news is that adjusting your chair is as easy as standing up. When you stand in front of your chair, you should adjust it so that the highest point of the seat is positioned just below your kneecaps. When you sit on it, your feet should be flat to the floor, with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. This is the perfect position for being seated at a desk. If you do not own an office chair, now might be a good time to invest in one. Until then, try using pillows or cushions to achieve the same effect.
Sit the correct distance away from the screen
The optimum distance to sit away from the screen falls between 20 and 40 inches, dependent on the size of your screen. If you don’t have a tape measure to hand, use your body – you should ideally sit about an arm’s length away from your screen. Ensure the room you’re working in isn’t too bright or di. The ideal office lighting level is 300-500 lux. To achieve this, you’re going to need an LED lamp with an output of at least 600 lumens. While it’s difficult to measure the amount of light in a room, use common sense to dictate when you should turn the lamp on (when it’s dark and cloudy outside, or when you’re working late at night, for example).
Preventing computer vision syndrome: FAQs
Can the right monitor help prevent computer vision syndrome?
Yes. Blue light waves are known to exacerbate computer vision syndrome, and a monitor with blue light filter technology will help to reduce symptoms. Flickering images are also known to cause eyestrain, so it’s worthwhile finding a monitor which also features flicker-free technology if you want to avoid computer vision syndrome.
Who is susceptible to computer vision syndrome?
Any person who spends two or more continuous hours in front of a computer screen per day is susceptible to developing computer vision syndrome or other eye health issues.
Can computers ruin your eyesight?
According to experts, frequent computer use will not damage your eyesight permanently, provided your monitor has a blue light filter. However, prolonged computer use does cause bothersome side effects which could affect your ability to function in everyday life, including eye discomfort, double vision, headaches and more.
How far should the computer screen be from your eyes?
Your computer screen should be between 20 and 40 inches away from your eyes. However, if your monitor is small, you may need to increase the text size on your computer to compensate.
Is a blue light filter good for the eyes?
Yes. Exposure to blue light could increase the possibility of macular degeneration. Blue light penetrates all the way to the retina, and this can damage light-sensitive cells. With a blue light filter, you can prevent this potential damage and reduce visual symptoms associated with prolonged exposure to blue light.
Are you currently working from home? View our full range of homeworking products here.
For more guidance on ensuring your home set-up is ergonomic, read our guide to setting up an ergonomic home office.