1) As we understand, you are a surgeon and also take care of OPD. What are the most common eye ailments and complaints
that you deal with?
Patients coming for eye check-ups and correction of refractive errors are the most regular. But the summer season also brings me lots of cases of conjunctivitis and eye allergies. To a lesser extent, I see patients with CVS.
2) What is Computer Vision Syndrome or CVS? Who is at risk?
CVS, also known as Asthenopia, is essentially a condition in which the patient has symptoms such as eye strain, fatigue, excessive tearing or lacrimation; alternatively they may have dry, irritated eyes, redness and blurred vision. This normally happens to people who work on computers for prolonged periods, by which we mean anyone who uses a computer for three hours or more at a stretch.
3) What is it about prolonged computer use that is damaging to the eyes and in what manner?
It may be a bit of a stretch to say that computer use damages the eyes directly because there is no evidence that any harmful medical condition can result from this. But the concern is eye strain and fatigue. This, over a period of time, may go undetected and become more of a nuisance.
But there are other factors that come into play like the seating, lighting, the distance at which the user keeps the screen. These factors play an important role and contribute to eye strain. For instance - there may be glare on the computer screen due to the lighting conditions.
4) When we talk of eye-strain or fatigue, what exactly do we mean? Does it have long term consequences or complications?
Eye strain is the result of using the convergent muscles in the eyes for a prolonged period for focusing on the computer screen or reading.It's just like any other muscle and if it stays tense for long ,fatigue and strain will set in. This can show up as discomfort, blurry vision or tearing.
5) So how harmful is glare really for the eyes? Does exposure to glare lead to any complications?
Not really long term complications. By itself, glare is not harmful; but it puts more pressure on the eyes. Glare would exacerbate eye strain. If there is eye fatigue and irritation already, glare will make it worse and asthenopia or CVS can set in more easily or worsen.
6) How serious a condition is asthenopia? Are there any complications?
Well seriousness is a relative term, but I would say that it is not serious because it does not damage vision permanently. However, it can be quite uncomfortable; it may make working, reading, etc. difficult. There are no serious complications per se but if it goes undetected, there may be debilitating headaches or neck pain. Another issue is blurry vision or difficulty is switching one's focus between near and far objects.
7) How can one prevent this condition?
The main problem occurs because of inadequate blinking and prolonged focusing of the eyes. The dictum I ask patients to follow is very simple:
- Every 15 minutes, close your eyes for 15 seconds. This gives the eye a chance to rejuvenate the tear film and prevent dry-eye.
I recommend people to put a small sticker near their computer screen.
- If wearing prescription eyewear, wear one with an anti-glare coating. This is not only more soothing to the eye but helps prevent eye strain during focusing. One can also opt for computer eye-glasses that come with a tint.
8) We've talked about anti-glare lenses looking better because there is no reflection on the lenses and people eyes are clearly seen through them. But what exactly is the benefit for vision?
Anti-glare coats are very helpful in viewing illuminated screens like those of computers and mobiles comfortably and without straining the eye. If there is poor lighting which reflects on your screen or you are in a darker environment looking at a bright screen, you end up straining the eye. Anti-glare lenses diminish this strain but cutting glare.
9) Do you have any other advice for our readers with respect to eye-care?
Just that it is essential to get regular eye examinations and wear sunglasses when outdoors. It is actually sun exposure that can be quite harmful to vision.
Two warning signs that people must pay attention to is glare and blurry vision. If one feels glare even after wearing anti-glare spectacles, then this may be a sign of an underlying disease which needs attention.
Dr. Parul Sharma did her post-graduation from Aligarh Muslim University. She went in for advanced training and specialization at Moorfield Eye Hospital, L V Prasad Eye Institute and Singapore National Eye Centre. She is also a member of the International Council of Ophthalmology and specializes in surgery for Cataract, Refractive Lasik and Glaucoma.