Quad Cities, IL/IA

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Computer Screens and Visual Fatigue Syndrome (VFS)


By Michael Hittenmiller, OD, Eye Surgeons Associates

increased use of computers and laptops in the workplace and at home has
created greater demand on your vision. A study done by Essilor USA, a
lens manufacturer, in 2004 found that 1,000 respondents 25 years and
older averaged between six and seven hours per day at a computer.
Seventy-one percent of these respondents wore corrective lenses and
still had symptoms of Visual Fatigue Syndrome (VFS): headaches, tired
eyes, eyestrain, and neck and shoulder pain. Twenty-five percent suffer
from VFS symptoms every day. I’m sure it’s more today with the
popularity of smart phones, iPods, and video games. This type of “work”
puts greater stress on near and intermediate vision. The following are
common questions and answers about computers and VFS:

Can working at a computer all day cause eye problems?
is no conclusive evidence that computer displays cause any visual
problems, but it can aggravate existing ones, even minor problems that
do not affect other seeing tasks such as normal reading or driving.
Visual discomfort is experienced when the demands of the visual task
exceed the individual’s visual ability.

Can computer screens be associated with eyestrain?
A variety of symptoms including eye irritation, dry eyes, eye fatigue,
and difficulty focusing may be noted. Headaches, backaches, or muscle
spasms may also occur. Fortunately, these complaints often result from
conditions that can be remedied by either changing elements in the
workstation design or providing proper glasses for the user. Although
eyestrain is an annoying symptom, there is typically no permanent

How can eyestrain be prevented?
users prefer a viewing distance a little farther away than they would
normally use for reading a book or magazine. The top of the screen is
most comfortably placed at or slightly below eye level. Any reference
material should be as close as possible to the screen as practical to
minimize large head or eye movements and focusing changes.
should be arranged so reflections and glare are minimized. Sometimes
standard office lighting is too bright for comfortable use. If
modification of the office lighting is not practical, then hoods, glare
screens, or filters can be used.
Periodic rest breaks are important.
Using a computer requires a fairly unchanging body, head, and eye
position which can be fatiguing. Frequent blinking will lubricate the
eyes and prevent them from drying out. Occasional use of artificial
tears may also be useful. Finally, proper eyeglass prescriptions will
allow your eyes to focus correctly when on the screen.

Sometimes I can’t see my computer screen clearly with my glasses. Is there a solution?
the screen is usually placed farther away and higher than the usual
reading distance, different glasses may be necessary. This is especially
true for individuals who wear bifocals, trifocals, or reading glasses. A
bifocal height may need to be raised to compensate for the higher
positioning of the screen. You may also need to switch to trifocals, at
least for using the computer. Trifocals give you three lens
prescriptions: one for distance; one for near; and one for intermediate
distance, which is where your screen is usually located.

option, occupational lenses, are designed to allow for specific working
distances. This would require a second pair dedicated to using for
computer work. The lens manufacturers have introduced computer lenses
that provide full screen vision at intermediate distance and a wide near
area to provide a smooth transition from looking at the keyboard or
documents. This creates a more comfortable visual experience.

patients who don’t need readers quite yet, but still suffer from VFS,
there is an Anti-Fatigue lens that provides a slight plus power in the
lower section of the lens giving a little boost for better visual
accommodation. The proper eyeglass prescription and type of eyeglass
used ultimately depends on the person’s individual needs.

Hittenmiller has been an optometrist with Eye Surgeons Associates since
1985. He is a member of the Iowa Optometric Association and the American
Optometric Association. He practices out of our Tech Dr., Bettendorf,
IA office. For more information, visit www.esaeyecare.com.