Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is complex eye and vision problems related to near work which are experienced during, or related to computer use. CVS is characterized by visual symptoms which result from interaction with a computer display or its environment. In most cases, symptoms occur because the visual demands of the task exceed the visual abilities of the individual to comfortably perform the task.
Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) affects three out of four computer users. It is a series of symptoms related to extended periods of computer usage. Although it is no cause for panic, measures can be taken to relieve symptoms of CVS.
CVS can appear as a variety of symptoms. Headaches, eye strain, neck and back aches, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, double vision, and dry or irritated eyes are all possible problems related to CVS.
Any computer user can develop CVS. Your vision, your computer, and the environment where you use your computer are all factors that can lead to CVS.
There are many aspects of computers and the work environment in which they are used which may cause or contribute to the development of eye or vision difficulties. To obtain optimum visual comfort and work efficiency, all computer operators who could benefit from a visual correction should wear it. One way to help ensure this is to remove financial barriers to the employee for obtaining an eye examination and, when needed, treatment for eye and vision problems. This can often be accomplished by having an employer or third party sponsored program which provides eye care services for employees who work at computers.
As part of an eye care program for computer operators, it may be necessary to determine whether any treatment, usually in the form of eyeglasses, is specific to the computer task or whether the same glasses or treatment would be required for general vision needs. This may establish whether the employee is eligible to receive occupationally related eye care services under the program.
Whether a particular vision condition requires correction with eyeglasses or other treatment depends upon the clinical findings and the judgment of the examining doctor. However, the following criteria are recommended to help determine whether the care provided is computer related. These criteria are based upon the individual diagnosis and/or prescribed treatment. Since it is necessary for computer operators to have an eye and vision examination to determine whether these criteria are met, it is recommended that an examination be provided as part of the computer eye care program.
Vision problems occur frequently among video display terminal (VDT) workers. Most worker health surveys show that the most frequent health related complaints among workers at VDTs are visually related. However, more public and professional attention is currently being directed towards the avoidance of musculoskeletal disorders such as wrist problems (e.g., Carpal Tunnel Syndrome), bursitis, muscle strains (e.g., neck tension syndrome), tendon disorders (e.g., de Quervain’s disease), and tenosynovitis (e.g., trigger finger) among others. These disorders are generally classified as Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTD) or as Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI).
VDT related vision problems are at least as significant a health concern as the musculoskeletal disorders. Most studies indicate that visual symptoms occur in 50-90% of VDT workers, while a study released by NIOSH showed that 22% of VDT workers have musculoskeletal disorders. A survey of optometrists indicated that 10 million primary eye care examinations are provided annually in this country primarily because of visual problems at VDTs – not a small public health issue. Vision problems are pervasive among computer workers and are the source of worker discomfort and decreased work performance.
There appears to be a communication gap regarding the nature and extent of vision problems related to VDT use. The vision problems experienced by VDT workers are varied and are difficult to grasp and understand by those who don’t specialize in vision. The misunderstanding may also be the result of unfounded reports of cataracts caused by VDTs, exaggerated manufacturer claims about the need for UV and other radiation protections, and misleading statements about the effects of specialty tinted and coated lenses (e.g., computer glasses) among other products.
In order to improve communication and understanding of the vision problems at computers, the American Optometric Association supports the use of the term “Computer Vision Syndrome” (CVS) to broadly encompass the visual problems experienced at VDTs. CVS can be used to refer to the entirety of visual problems experienced by computer users and therefore improve communication and understanding of these problems. However, since there is not a single factor or visual disorder which causes the visual problems at computers, CVS encompasses many different symptoms, disorders and treatments.