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Q: Among computer users, what work-related disorder is more common than carpal tunnel syndrome and other musculoskeletal disorders?
A: Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). Fifty percent to 90 percent of workers who use a video display terminal, or computer screen, have CVS symptoms, according to research cited by the American Optometric Association. A National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study showed that 22 percent of video display terminal users have musculoskeletal disorders.
CVS is a combination of eye and vision problems that develop when people focus for extended periods of time on computers, hand-held digital devices or video games that are close to their eyes—arm’s length or closer, according to Dr. Nate Bonilla-Warford, an optometrist in Tampa, Fla., who specializes in the treatment of CVS.
Symptoms of CVS are eye strain and fatigue, dry eyes, headaches and neck and shoulder pain.
“Our eyes function best when we are looking into the distance, when lighting is even and uniform,” Bonilla-Warford said. “Bright lights or differences in light create glare. For many people, the combination of those things in an office environment can produce CVS.”
A third of doctors surveyed by VSP Vision Care eye doctors reported that roughly one-third of their patients suffer from CVS. But two in three eye doctors reported that 20 percent or fewer of their patients knew what CVS was.
Most people don’t realize that their problems might be related to using a computer, Bonilla-Warford said.
“It’s very common for people to adopt an odd head posture to accommodate their eye strain,” such as tilting their heads to one side or looking through only the bottom part of their bifocal glasses. “They develop neck and back problems and go to the chiropractor.”
Preventing and Treating CVS
In most cases, CVS is treatable. “For the vast majority of people without underlying vision problems, the most easily achieved treatment is to evaluate the workplace,” Bonilla-Warford said.
More significant problems can be diagnosed through an annual eye exam. It’s important to talk to your eye doctor about symptoms, Bonilla-Warford said, because doctors don’t evaluate patients for CVS routinely unless the patient alerts them to problems.
If the above remedies don’t help, glasses can be prescribed for CVS sufferers, because “computer use is different from anything else we do,” Bonilla-Warford said.
“As we become more tech savvy and mobile with digital devices, combined with an older population, this is going to become an even more problematic issue for individuals and companies,” he said. “It benefits any company to look at the issue and be preventative.”
For more information, see these VSP Vision Care resources:
Beth Mirza is senior editor for
HR News. She can be reached at
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