Computer Glasses and Computer Vision Syndrome

Help for Digital Eye Strain from Computer, Tablet, and Cell Phone Use

Young man with laptop at home rubbing his eyes
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If you spend a lot of time each day in front of a computer, tablet, or mobile phone, you are likely to experience symptoms of computer vision syndrome (CVS) or digital eye strain. Many people experience this eyestrain and irritation. Computer glasses are prescription glasses specially designed to allow you to work comfortably at a computer or when using other digital devices. See how they are different from typical reading glasses and why you may experience CVS.

Computer Vision Syndrome - Digital Eye Strain

CVS is a collection of symptoms caused by prolonged computer or digital device use. Symptoms often include eyestrain, dry eyes, headaches and blurred vision. Many people try to compensate for these vision problems by leaning forward or by looking down to see through the bottom portion of their glasses, often resulting in back and shoulder pain.

Symptoms appear because the eyes and brain react differently to words on a digital screen than they do to printed text. Printed text consists of bold, black letters on a bright, white background. The eyes can easily focus on images with well-defined edges that are strongly contrasted against their backgrounds. However, words and images on a digital screen do not have well-defined edges. Characters displayed on a computer screen are made up of several small dots, or pixels. The eyes cannot easily focus on pixels, so they must work harder to see the digital screen clearly.

The constant struggle to focus leads to fatigue and tired, burning eyes. Many people try to compensate for uncomfortable vision symptoms by leaning forward or by tipping their head to look through the bottom portion of their glasses. These actions can result in a sore neck, sore shoulders and a sore back.

Symptoms of CVS

People who suffer from CVS may experience the following symptoms:

  • Dry eyes
  • Headaches
  • Eye irritation
  • Blurred vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Temporary inability to focus on a distant object (pseudomyopia or accommodative spasm)
  • Double vision
  • Squinting
  • Neck and shoulder pain

You may find that you experience digital eye strain when using your cell phone or tablet but don't have the same problem with a computer screen, or vice versa.

Symptoms of CVS can also be caused by presbyopia, a vision disorder that develops as we age. Presbyopia is the loss of the eye's ability to change focus to see near objects. This usually becomes noticeable around the age of 40.

Ways to Cope With Computer Vision Syndrome

If you are having trouble with your eyes while using a computer, the following tips are worth a try.

  • Consider a pair of computer glasses
  • Blink, breathe and break. Blink more often, take frequent deep breaths, and take a short break every hour
  • Use artificial tears for dry or irritated eyes
  • Reduce screen glare by adjusting light levels
  • Increase font size on your computer screen

How Computer Glasses Can Help CVS

If you think you might be feeling some of the symptoms of CVS, you may benefit from a pair of computer glasses.

With computer glasses, the whole lens focuses at the same distance and does not require you to tilt your head back to see the computer screen.

Computer work involves focusing the eyes at a close distance. Standard reading glasses are usually not enough to alleviate symptoms of CVS, as computer monitors are usually placed a little further away than the comfortable reading distance. Computer glasses allow a person to easily focus on the distance of the computer screen.

Contact lens wearers may even need to wear glasses over their contacts while using the computer. Do not think of this a problem that exists in those over 40 years of age either, computer vision problems occur in young people too, and CVS is fast becoming a common complaint when those young people visit the eye doctor's offices.

Even small uncorrected vision problems can become a problem when you spend four or more hours on the computer every day.

How to Get a Pair of Computer Glasses

An optometrist or ophthalmologist will be able to prescribe a pair of computer glasses that will help to relieve symptoms brought on by CVS. Before your appointment, however, take a good look at your work space. It is important to tell your doctor exactly how your work space is set up, including the distance between your monitor and your eyes, in order to prescribe the appropriate computer glasses.

Also, pay attention to lighting. Bright lights are often a source of eyestrain in the office. Anti-reflective (AR) coatings may be applied to your lenses to reduce the amount of glare and reflected light that reach your eyes.

Different Types of Lenses for Computer Glasses

The following lenses are designed specifically for computer use:

  • Single Vision: Single vision lenses are the simplest type of computer glasses. The entire lens is designed for seeing the computer monitor, providing the largest field of view. Many people, adults as well as children, enjoy these lenses because the monitor appears clear without obstructions. However, distant objects, as well as objects that are closer than the computer screen, will appear blurry.
  • Flat-top Bifocal: A flat-top bifocal lens looks just like a regular bifocal lens that some people wear for distance and near vision. These lenses are designed so the top half of the lens is set to focus on the computer monitor while the bottom segment is set to focus on closer reading material. These lenses have a visible line that divides the two focusing segments. Even though these lenses provide comfortable viewing of the computer, objects in the distance will appear blurry.
  • Variable Focus: Some eye care specialists call this lens a "computer progressive" lens. Although similar to a traditional no-line invisible progressive multifocal lens in design, a variable focus lens is much more task-specific. This lens has a small segment at the top part of the lens for viewing objects in the distance, a wide intermediate segment for viewing the computer monitor, and finally a small segment in the lower part of the lens for focusing on close objects. No visible lines or segments are in this type of lens, so it feels more like normal vision.

The Right Fit Is Key

Computer glasses can benefit computer users as long as they are properly fitted and correctly prescribed. Optometrists and ophthalmologists are knowledgeable in problems resulting from computer vision syndrome and can help you find an appropriate pair.

A Word From Verywell

If you are experiencing eyestrain, see your eye specialist for a checkup and recommendations for how to be more comfortable reading or working at a computer. You may be able to find a solution that will give you relief and you will be checked for any signs of other vision problems.

Sources:

Computer Vision Syndrome. American Optometric Association. https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/protecting-your-vision/computer-vision-syndrome?sso=y.

Watt, Wendy Strouse, OD. Computer Vision Syndrome and Computer Glasses. Preventblindness.org. http://lowvision.preventblindness.org/eye-conditions/computer-vision-syndrome-and-computer-glasses/.

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