An increasing reliance on digital technology has given rise to a new and emerging health condition called CVS, or Computer Vision Syndrome, which is effecting countless Australians of all ages and having a significant impact on productivity and general wellbeing.
CVS encompasses a group of eye and vision related problems that result from prolonged computer use. While they’re not thought to be permanent, symptoms of CVS are generally unpleasant and cause discomfort. The level of discomfort naturally increases with ongoing and continued use of the computer.
The most common symptoms are eyestrain, blurred vision and dry, itchy or burning eyes, which will often culminate in a headache or migraine. But of greater consequence, CVS is also thought to be having an impact on the incidence of Myopia (short-sightedness) with a study conducted by the National Eye Institute in the USA reporting the prevalence of near-sightedness increasing by around 66% over the past thirty years in America.
“Whether for work or pleasure many of us subject our eyes to the constant glare and flicker of a digital screen for a large portion of our day. The dramatic rise in ownership of smartphones and tablets, which coupled with modern day work practices involving extended use of PCs in the office environment, are causing our eye muscles to work harder and for longer periods,” said Optometrist, Dr Jim Kokkinakis from The Eye Practice.
“CVS is similar to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or any of the repetitive stress injuries that occur when carrying out the same motion over and over again,” continued Dr Kokkinakis.
“Working at a computer requires the eyes to continually focus and refocus, for instance when you’ve looked away from the screen to view paperwork on the desk and then back at the screen. The repetitive nature of this process requires quite a lot of effort from the eye muscles and they are likely to fatigue over an extended period, leading to CVS.
“Reading from a screen is more challenging to the eyes than reading from a document or a book, because a when viewing a screen, the eyes need to adjust to contrast, flicker and glare. But we all do it. Staring at a computer screen, hour upon hour, has become part of the modern work day,” he continued.
Working adults aren’t the only ones vulnerable to CVS. Today, kids rely heavily on computers as part of their everyday learning experiences at school and within the home. Compounding their educational computer usage is their love of video games.
“Kids also experience eye problems related to computer use, and this is of greater significance as young eyes are not properly developed and are ill-equipped to handle the stress that long term exposure to computer screens can cause to their visual system,” said Dr Kokkinakis. “Many paediatric optometrists now believe that heavy computer use puts children at risk for early Myopia, which later in life can be associated with development of glaucoma and retinal detachment. If this trend continues the incidence of potentially blinding eye diseases may also increase. What seems to be clear is that children brought up in less developed rural environments with plenty of outdoor activity and lower reading demands seem to have less Myopia,” he said.
The American Optometric Association (AOA) reports that a survey of optometrists found that approximately 10 million eye examinations are performed annually in the United States due to vision problems related to computer use. According to Dr Jim Kokkinakis, we could conclude that computer related eye strain is as much an epidemic in Australia, as it is in the USA.
Said Dr Kokkinakis, “Anyone spending more than two continuous hours working on a computer every day is at greater risk for developing CVS. Tired eyes make mistakes and are responsible for lost productivity, so it’s not just a health epidemic, it has financial consequences, impacting the bottom line in the corporate world also.
“To reduce the incidence of CVS involves taking steps to control flicker, lighting and glare on the computer screen, in addition to establishing better working practices to minimise the negative effect the computer is having on our eyes,” explained Dr Kokkinakis.
Manufacturers of computer monitors are investing in finding solutions to downgrade the impact their technology is having on eye health. Leading the charge is BenQ, who have launched their first in a series of new Flicker-free monitors designed to be easier on the eyes, minimising the likelihood of CVS.
While not detectible to the human eye, computer screens flicker continually. ‘Flicker’ is the fading between cycles displayed through video. It can be detected when you view a conventional monitor through a digital camera lens or smartphone set to record video. You will see the screen strobe – this flicker, coupled with the screen brightness and contrast, is largely responsible for causing the eyes to fatigue.
BenQ have incorporated a new technology into their monitors which eliminates the flicker and minimises glare to better protect the eyes. BenQ’s Flicker-free Technology will soon be a standard inclusion across a range of business, home and gaming monitors. Pricing will remain consistent, so choosing to upgrade your monitor for the benefit of your eyes won’t affect your hip pocket.
“Between patient consultations and running my business I spend at least 10 hours focussing on a computer screen every day. Computer Vision Syndrome is a real epidemic born from the computer age which not only affects a significant percentage of my patients but it’s a condition that I also subject myself to. Using a BenQ Flicker Free screen now for the last few months has perceptibly reduced eye strain for me,” said Dr Kokkinakis.
For further information contact BenQ on 1300 130 336 or visit www.BenQ.com.au