A 19-year-old secondary school leaver who was employed as computer operator in one of the business centres in Lagos was rushed to the hospital on a particular evening.
It was a hectic day for him, as there were lots of clients who had come to do registration for examinations on computer on that day, and the young boy was looking forward to closing about 6pm.
At about 5pm, he started blinking with blurred vision and could not concentrate; he came in fatigued. The boy was assessed and examined. He was told that he had typhoid fever and was placed on treatment. After about two days, all the symptoms still persisted till about 2pm.
Is your vision blurred? Are you squinting at the computer screen? Does your head hurt? After a full day’s work, do you feel exhausted? Is it work-related stress or changes to your vision, or something else?
If these symptoms sound familiar, you could be experiencing computer vision syndrome — a common but temporary condition experienced by many people who work on computers for long period of time.
Computers, tablets, e-readers, smart phones and other electronic devices with visual displays all can cause tired eyes, digital eye strain and computer vision syndrome.
Many individuals experience eye discomfort and vision problems when viewing digital screens for extended periods. The level of discomfort appears to increase with the amount of digital screen use.
Symptoms of CVS include eye strain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, neck and shoulder pain, and redness in the eyes, irritated eyes, double vision, dizziness/vertigo and difficulty refocusing the eyes.
Many of the visual symptoms experienced by users are only temporary and will decline after stopping computer work or use of the digital device. However, some individuals may experience continued reduced visual abilities, such as blurred distance vision, even after stopping work at a computer.
Some important factors in preventing or reducing the symptoms of CVS have to do with the computer and how it is used. This includes lighting conditions, chair comfort, location of reference materials, position of the monitor, and the use of rest breaks.
Location of computer screen: Most people find it more comfortable to view a computer when the eyes are looking downward. Optimally, the computer screen should be 15 to 20 degrees below eye level (about four or five inches) as measured from the centre of the screen; and 20 to 28 inches from the eyes. Adjust the contrast setting on monitors and screens to the best effect.
Seating position: Chairs should be comfortably padded and conform to the body. Chair height should be adjusted so that your feet rest flat on the floor. If your chair has arms, they should be adjusted to provide arm support while you are typing. Your wrists shouldn’t rest on the keyboard when typing.
Reference materials: These materials should be located above the keyboard and below the monitor. If this is not possible, a document holder can be used beside the monitor. The goal is to position the documents so you do not need to move your head to look from the document to the screen.
Lighting: Position the computer screen to avoid glare, particularly from overhead lighting or windows. Use blinds or drapes on windows and replace the light bulbs in desk lamps with bulbs of lower wattage. Use full spectrum fluorescent bulbs.
Anti-glare screens: If there is no way to minimise the glare from light sources, consider using a screen glare filter. These filters decrease the amount of light reflected from the screen.
Frequent breaks: Taking frequent breaks while at work helps in reducing the risk of fatigue caused by computer vision syndrome. Every 20-30 minutes that one spends at the system, a 20-30 second break is all that is required.
A routinely recommended approach is to consciously blink the eyes periodically (this helps replenish the tear film) and to look out the window to a distant object or to the sky.
Comprehensive eye examination: A regular eye examination with an optometrist or ophthalmologist is a must for anyone who spends long working hours at the computer. In some cases, glasses, depending on the person’s refractive status, will be generally prescribed, especially for intermediate vision with an anti-reflective coating to minimise the glare emanating from the computer screen.
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