Ergonomics for Your Eyes, May 2001

When you think about ergonomics, you probably think about bad backs, sore wrists and cramped neck muscles. But there's also another important body part that you need to take care of at work: your eyes.

Staring at a computer screen can be murder on your vision. That glowing cathode ray tube you call a monitor is not exactly what nature had in mind when designing your eyes. The fuzzy letters, the illuminated background, the glare--these modern technological side effects can cause a host of eye problems.

Doctors have even come up with a name for computer-related eye ailments: "computer vision syndrome," a loosely related cluster of symptoms including eye-strain, blurred vision, headaches and dry, irritated eyes.

To prevent computer vision syndrome, you've got to take some precautions, depending on your office setup. Take a look at the following recommendations:

  • Buy computer glasses. If you find yourself squinting while working on the computer, you may need eyeglasses designed specially for computer work. These prescription lenses are made specifically to sharpen type at the arm's-length distance of a monitor. Ask your optometrist if they might work for you.

  • Fix those vents. If your eyes feel dry and itchy at work, it may be because of that arctic air-conditioning blasting down on you from the ceiling vents. See if you can redirect the air elsewhere, or try medicated drops that can lubricate and soothe your eyes.

  • Get rid of glare. Try to make things as easy as possible on your eyes by taking steps to reduce glare from your computer screen. Buy a glare shield or dim the room lights, and stay away from fancy background or font colors. Black type on a white screen is best, and font sizes should be large enough to see easily.

  • Pay attention to the position of your monitor. Your monitor should be straight in front of you, and low enough so that you don't have to flex your neck to see properly. This is especially important for people who wear bifocals, since they tend to raise their chins to see through the lower half of the glasses.

  • Take a rest. One of the most important things you can do while working on a computer is to rest your eyes regularly. Every few minutes take a moment to look up from your work and focus on something a few feet a way.

No job is worth ruining your eyesight, and with today's increasingly visual forms of communication and entertainment, these precautions are more important than ever. Keep an eye on your health, won't you?