Computer use and visual stress

In this day and age, people stare at computer screens from a close distance more than ever before at school, work and home. The viewing distances and angles used for computer work are typically different from other reading or writing tasks, placing additional demands on the visual system. Sustained computer use can cause visual stress, blurred vision, eye strain, headaches, and even vision-induced stomachaches. Work that is visually tiring can lower productivity, increase errors and reduce job satisfaction, so it’s important to correct these issues.

For example, I’m currently treating a patient in my practice who is a PhD student with focusing and convergence insufficiency problems associated with computer work, a sustained near task. She is having difficulty refocussing, sustaining her focus, and finding her place in text after looking away.

Convergence insufficiency, like this patient has, is a very common vision disorder relating to the ability to sustain effort for a period of time when focusing. That’s why it’s so commonly missed in routine eye exams – many patients can focus on a single point, they just can’t sustain that effort for very long. Spending all day looking at a computer screen could become more difficult as the day goes on, and become easier after taking short breaks from the screen.

If a person can converge to a near point, but can’t sustain that effort, they might start out reading perfectly fine but slowly the vision becomes more difficult. But being able to sustain that focus is actually a skill that has to be developed and can be improved. Most people develop this skill naturally in childhood, but if they didn’t, luckily vision therapy can help!

Because this is a skill, it can be strengthened by training just like an athlete trains their muscles. Vision Therapy trains your brain to use your eye muscles more effectively, efficiently and accurately. This video explains what convergence insufficiency is, how to test or look for it, and how vision therapy can help.

A patient's exact Vision Therapy prescription will be based on standardized test results, patient needs and symptoms. Lenses, prisms, filters, occluders, specialized instruments and computer programs can all be part of a Vision Therapy program.

After training your eyes with Vision Therapy, you can improve your ability to sustain focus on a near object. Your comfort in looking at a computer all day can be drastically improved, which is exactly what we are working on with the PhD student who is currently a patient at Family Eyecare Centre.

By Dr. Nazima Sangha of Family Eyecare Centre