A recent article in The Wall Street Journal asks whether we are becoming a “squinter nation”. Computer screens, I-Pads, smart phones, and a litany of other hand held devices are all typically viewed between 18 to 40 inches away. This intermediate distance is often the “black hole” in between the clear distance and near focus of typical bifocal glasses. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health says that 30% of people who spend 3 or more hours a day on computer experience the symptoms of computer-vision syndrome or “CVS”.
The symptoms of CVS include headaches, fatigue, blurred vision and neck pain. The blink rate drops when we stare at computers, contributing to dry eye and blurry vision. (Lowering the screen and using artificial tears may help). For those of us experiencing the loss of near (presbyopia), the eyes may fatigue from trying to accommodate for long periods of time, just as muscles would fatigue during an isometric exercise. Looking off to the distance every few minutes to relax the muscle and applying heat or a warm washcloth to the eyes may reduce these findings. Neck strain often relates to trying to utilize the near segment of the bifocal glasses by tilting the head back in an unnatural position when looking at the computer.
Some people resort to multiple powers of reading glasses for computer or closer objects, but it becomes evident that these blur distance vision if you look across the room. Others have tried multifocal contacts or trifocals or specialized occupational progressive glasses with a large upper portion for intermediate (i.e. computer range vision) and a lower area for close-up, with no correction for distance.
For patients with cataract, a new life-style enhancing intraocular lens implant called Crystalens has been shown to deliver good distance and intermediate vision in the same eye. This may be a good solution for patients who want to maintain good uncorrected distance vision and also to be able to see their computer and Kindle. If you are suffering from computer-vision syndrome, I recommend making an appointment with us to see what options may be available for you.