Computer vision syndrome (a.k.a. digital eye strain)

16 February 2016
Volume 17, Issue 1

Principal ocular causes for the condition, and how the standard eye examination should be modified to meet today's visual demands.

Abstract

Computer vision syndrome, also known as digital eye strain, is the combination of eye and vision problems associated with the use of computers (including desktop, laptop and tablets) and other electronic displays (eg smartphones and electronic reading devices). In today’s world, the viewing of digital screens for both vocational and avocational activities is virtually universal. Digital electronic displays differ significantly from printed materials in terms of the within-task symptoms experienced. Many individuals spend 10 or more hours per day viewing these displays, frequently without adequate breaks. In addition, the small size of some portable screens may necessitate reduced font sizes, leading to closer viewing distances, which will increase the demands on both accommodation and vergence. Differences in blink patterns between hard-copy and electronic displays have also been observed. Digital eye strain has been shown to have a significant impact on both visual comfort and occupational productivity, since around 40% of adults and up to 80% of teenagers may experience significant visual symptoms (principally eye strain, tired and dry eyes), both during and immediately after viewing electronic displays. This paper reviews the principal ocular causes for this condition, and discusses how the standard eye examination should be modified to meet today’s visual demands. It is incumbent upon all eye care practitioners to have a good understanding of the symptoms associated with, and the physiology underlying problems while viewing digital displays. As modern society continues to move towards even greater use of electronic devices for both work and leisure activities, an inability to satisfy these visual requirements will present significant lifestyle difficulties for patients.

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