Computer Screens And Your Eyes: Learn To Prevent Damage

Millions of Americans spend the bulk of their workday staring at a computer screen, and many wonder if that activity is harmful to their eyes. Not if you take precautions, says Dr. Hansjoerg Kolder, professor emeritus of ophthalmology at the University of Iowa College of Medicine and staff physician at UI Hospitals and Clinics. Kolder is a specialist in the eye's sensory physiology and often sees patients who complain of eye strain that may be computer-related.

One of the most common complaints is eye fatigue, Kolder says. A simple way to prevent that fatigue is to close your eyes for 20 to 30 seconds every 10 to 15 minutes. You can also cut down on eye strain by attaching an anti-glare screen to older monitors.

Computer users do not have to worry about significant electromagnetic radiation being emitted from their screens unless their computer screen is faulty or more than 20 years old. Nor should users fear cataracts. "There is not enough evidence to substantiate the presumption that computers cause cataracts," Kolder says.

Trouble seeing the computer can trigger pains in other areas, such as the neck. People with bifocal glasses are especially prone to neck aches because they may have to tilt their heads back to see things up close. Working glasses are available to alleviate that problem, Kolder says. These are like reading glasses but the prescription is for the preferred distance from the computer screen to the eyes. Another way to avoid neck strain is to make sure your eyes are level with or slightly above the computer screen. You can also prevent postural problems and other aches by centering your keyboard under your computer screen, he adds.

University of Iowa Health Science Relations, and Hansjoerg Kolder, MD, PhD