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Lifestyles

What sitting at a computer all day does to your eyes

Posted May 10

Sitting at a computer for eight hours is hard on the eyes. If your eyes are tired and your vision blurry, you might have computer vision syndrome, but doing this for 20 seconds every two hours will help. (Deseret Photo)

Sitting at a computer all day isn't good for your health, and not just because you're still when your body would rather move around. If your eyes feel tired and your vision starts to blur, you might have computer vision syndrome, but don't worry — it's temporary, and there's an easy way to combat it.

Also called digital related eyestrain, computer vision syndrome is characterized by headaches, dry eyes, neck and shoulder pain and blurred vision, the American Optometric Association says.

In a report on the condition, NPR said it's not officially recognized by insurers — not yet, anyway. For now, most doctors are classifying it as asthenopia, eyestrain caused from general overuse or fatigue. But a professor at SUNY College of Optometry told NPR's Zhai Yun Tan that may change.

"I think research is coming out now that this really is a different condition," Mark Rosenfield said. "There is something about these screens that is different from paper and so we're trying to figure out what aspects of screens is it that is causing problems."

The amount of time spent in front of a screen probably is a factor, Rosenfield said, noting that reading books or newspapers can also cause eye strain, but few people hunch over paper for as long as they do a screen.

The average person spends seven hours a day in front of a screen, putting eye muscles in an extended state of tension, Steve Loomis, president of the American Optometric Association, told NPR.

"We're not really designed to do full-time near work; we're designed to do part-time near work," Loomis said.

When we stare at a screen for hours, we abuse our eyes in multiple ways. We don't blink as much, which reduces tear volume, which can lead to irritation and burning. We assault our eyes with glare from windows, overhead lights and the computer itself. And, NPR notes, we position screens closer to our eyes than we should.

The ideal distance, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration says, is 20 to 40 inches away. And it's best to look down at the screen, about 15 degrees, NPR said.

After making these adjustments, if your eyes still feel strained, you can try anti-glare filters and eyedrops, and heed the 20-20-20 rule: Look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes.

Getting up and moving around for five minutes an hour will help both your eyes and the rest of your body.

And remember to blink. In addition to keeping our eyes lubricated, blinking at least 15-20 times a minute gives the brain a tiny break and may help improve focus, Smithsonian magazine said.

EMAIL: jgraham@deseretnews.com

TWITTER: @grahamtoday

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