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The eyes have it -- strain, that is. As our enthusiasm for using computers, tablets and phones grows, our eyes are paying the price.
Upwards of 90 percent of computer and device users experience a problem so common there's a name for it: computer vision syndrome (CVS). CVS comes with symptoms such as decreased or blurred vision, burning or stinging eyes, sensitivity to light, headaches, and back and neck pain.
If these symptoms affect you, check out these tips from Cleveland Clinic Cole Eye Institute Specialist Rishi Singh, M.D., to ease the strain and avoid the pain:
1. Adjust your viewing angle
The angle of your gaze plays a key role in CVS. For the best angle, the center of the monitor, tablet or phone should be 20 to 28 inches from your eyes and 4 to 5 inches below eye level. If you're looking back and forth between a screen and reference materials, keep those materials where you can see them with minimal head movement.
2. Reduce glare
Letters on a screen are not as clear as letters on a printed page. Too little contrast between letters and background or glare on the screen makes your eyes work harder. The result: sensitivity to light. Position your screen to avoid glare from overhead lights or windows. Close the blinds on your windows or switch to lower-watt bulbs in your desk lamp. If you can't change the lighting to minimize glare, buy a glare filter for your screen.
3. Rest your eyes
When using a computer or device for an extended period of time, take regular breaks to prevent eyestrain. Every 20 minutes, look away from your computer and look at a distant object for 20 seconds. This will give your eyes a chance to refocus. After two hours of continual computer use, rest your eyes for 15 minutes.
4. Blink often
People normally blink about 18 times a minute, but computer users tend to blink only one-fourth as often. This increases the chance of developing dry eye. To reduce this risk, remind yourself to blink more often. And refresh your eyes periodically with lubricating eye drops.
5. Get your eyes checked
Uncorrected vision problems -- farsightedness or astigmatism, problems focusing or coordinating the eyes and eye changes associated with aging -- can contribute to eyestrain and musculoskeletal pain.
Even if you don't need glasses or contacts for daily activities, you may need them for computer or device use. If you do wear glasses or contacts and need to tilt your head or lean toward the screen to see it clearly, your lens prescription may need to be adjusted.
Get an eye checkup to make sure your prescription is right. Doing so can help prevent pain in the neck, shoulders or back that results from contorting your body to see the screen.
(WhatDoctorsKnow is a magazine devoted to up-to-the minute information on health issues from physicians, major hospitals and clinics, universities and health care agencies across the U.S. Online at www.whatdoctorsknow.com.)