News Releases

January 1998

How computers affect the eyes

More and more of us spend at least a portion of our day working at a computer, balancing our checkbook, surfing the web. Sending e-mail has become almost as common as talking on the phone. As a consequence, millions of Americans seek eye care for eye problems caused by working at a computer.

“Many patients who have computer-related eye problems actually have eye fatigue,” says Larry Taub, M.D., a comprehensive ophthalmologist at the Emory Eye Center. Even though there is no scientific data suggesting that a computer monitor emits hazardous radiation, you can suffer from eye strain from extended computer use. “An anti-glare screen can be beneficial,” he says.

To prevent annoying eye strain, take frequent breaks from the screen and relax your eyes by looking at far-away objects — reading a book is not a break, says Dr. Taub. Keep your eyes lubricated by blinking frequently or using artificial tears (not the drops that “get the red out”). Move your screen so that it doesn’t have glare from a lamp, overhead light or window and position it 20 to 26 inches from your eyes. Make sure you have to look slightly downward on the center of your screen, four to nine inches below your eye level.

According to Dr. Taub, you should seek care from an ophthalmologist or optometrist if you consistently experience watery, red or dry eyes; heavy eyelids; tired or aching eyes; headaches; sensitivity to light; difficulty focusing; or double vision.

Refraction problems such as myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), astigmatism (football-shaped cornea) and presbyopia (an age-related problem caused when the lens of the eye loses flexibility and no longer can focus sharply on near objects) can contribute to computer-related ailments.

“Many patients will ask me for special computer glasses,” says Dr. Taub. “Actually you should have spectacles that best correct your particular refractive problem.” This may mean single-vision lenses, bifocals, trifocals or even contact lenses. If you have presbyopia, you may benefit from no-line bifocal lenses with a wide, mid-range viewing area for computer work. Special lenses designed for computer use are made for specific distance and work-related tasks. Also, anti-reflective coatings can be incorporated into lenses to reduce glare.

When going for an exam, it also can help your practitioner decide what kind of eyewear you may need if you can describe your workstation, how you use your computer, how far your eyes are from the monitor and what kind of lighting you have.

The Emory Eye Center offers many eye care solutions for adults and children. Emory’s comprehensive ophthalmology section offers primary eye care, routine eye exams and medical and surgical first-line treatments for disorders such as cataracts, glaucoma and retinal problems. Its optical shops offer a wide variety of lenses and frames. And its contact lens service offers an advanced computer system that helps technicians recommend the best lens design for the patient.

Media Contact: Joy H. Bell

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