Achieving Harmony between Your Eyes and Your Computer Screen

Since complaints of eye discomfort and fatigue are becoming more frequent as computer use becomes more frequent, safety concerns are receiving more attention. There is no convincing evidence that VDTs (video display terminals or "monitors") are harmful to the eyes.

The amount of ultraviolet radiation produced by VDTs is a small fraction of that produced by fluorescent lighting. The levels of radiation emitted are well below those required to produce cataracts or other eye damage even after a lifetime of exposure. If your computer work is associated with eyestrain, such as irritation, fatigue, headache, and difficulty focusing, a systematic search for the cause should be made with the assistance of your ophthalmologist.

The office workstation was usually designed for desk work without consideration for the specific needs of the computer. The screen is often placed a little farther away than one would normally read. The top of the screen is placed at or slightly below eye level. Written materials should be as close to the screen as possible to minimize head movements and focusing changes.

Lighting should be arranged to minimize reflection and glare. In contrast to desktop work, overhead office lighting diminishes the clarity of the VDT. While dimming room light as much as possible would be beneficial, altering office illumination may not be practical. Extending an awning or hood from the top of the monitor and neutral density or micromesh filters for the screen may help. An adjacent task light for written materials minimizes glare.

The VDT screen must be kept in proper focus. Since the screen is usually placed farther and higher than the usual reading distance, different glasses or contact lenses may be necessary. Even individuals who do not normally wear glasses may find them beneficial. Computer bifocals, with the top of the lens designed for the computer screen and the bottom of the lens designed for nearer printed materials, are becoming increasingly popular. When visiting the ophthalmologist, information regarding the layout and dimensions of your workstation allows proper calculation of the lens power that will work best for you.

Sometimes overlooked, the computer work environment requires a fairly unchanging body, head and eye position which can be fatiguing. Frequent eye blinking, artificial tears for lubrication and periodic rest breaks are important.

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