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Computer Use and Eye Strain

Looking at a computer screen for hours at a time can cause eye screen. Some signs of eye strain are sore, dry or red eyes, stress in the muscles around the eyes, head or neck aches, and even general tiredness. These changes can come on slowly making it hard to notice until it gets really bad. If you are computing solely for personal interest or entertainment, the easy solution is to just go do something else, but many professionals and students don't have that option. There are however a number of other options to avoid or reduce eye strain.

You may find that adjusting the brightness, particularly as the ambient lighting changes, can make you more comfortable. More or less ambient lighting can also make a difference. For instance, having the screen significantly brighter than the surrounding room (as is common in the cave-type programmers office) seems to be optimal for some people and disastrous for others. Different styles of monitors work better for different people while most people prefer an LCD monitor, others do better with a CRT. Refresh rate (how often the data is drawn on the screen) can also make a difference. In general, higher refresh rates cause less eye strain, but this is not a hard and fast rule. A higher pixel density (often referred to as resolution, but not actually the same thing) can help as well. Because many of these things are very personal, a good way to figure out what works for you is to pay attention when you are using different screens and if one makes your eyes feel better, try to determine what is different about it. For instance, you may use a laptop sometimes and a desktop at others or occasionally work at a lab or library computer.

Just looking up and focusing across the room occasionally can give your eyes a break. So can getting up and walking around. Getting up and walking over to talk to a coworker instead of emailing or IMing them not only gives your eyes and body a break. It is also a good way to build better relationships with your colleagues.

Computer glasses are probably the easiest way to reduce eye strain, although they aren't always inexpensive. Computer glasses are glasses optimized for the distance to your computer screen. Just because you do or don't need distance or reading glasses does not necessarily determine whether computer glasses are appropriate. An eye doctor can easily determine this although you may have to ask about it. If you do need computer glasses, they make a huge difference. You can also have anti-glare coating, UV coating and tints added to your computer glasses if those make screen viewing more comfortable for you. Since you pretty much only wear computer glasses when sitting at your computer, it's a good chance to try a fun or edgy frame. For most people, a computer lens is also a good lens for looking at notes and papers at your desk and sufficient for walking around the office, but not good for things like driving that require distance vision. I love my computer glasses, it's amazing how much better I feel at the end of the day when I wear them.

With an appropriate combination of these suggestions, you can reduce your eye strain for added comfort and productivity at your computer.

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