Eyestrain leading cause of workplace health complaints

Overworked North Carolina employees staring at computer screens for long periods may have read about carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive stress injuries, but may not know that the number one health-related office complaint is computer-related vision problems.

Continually staring at a computer screen places a strain on eyes in various ways. The constant distance from the screen causes repetitive stress injuries as eyes flex to focus on the screen. Staring at a computer screen for a long period may cause headaches, blurry vision and the inability to retain focus on the screen.

As workers gear up to meet a deadline and try to work faster, they might not even realize that they are actually blinking less in order to get more work done. Their blink rate goes down from 12 to 15 blinks per minute to four to five blinks per minute. Workers may experience dry eyes or even watery eyes because their eyes are irritated, but the reduced blink rate does not allow efficient tear production.

Additionally, lighting, both in the office and on the computer screen, plays an important role in straining eyes. According to one source, staring at a screen with low quality lighting is the equivalent to staring at a light bulb for long periods.

Collectively, these symptoms may represent Computer Vision Syndrome. This syndrome affects 150 to 200 million Americans and is the most prevalent issue for computer users. The numbers indicate that some or all of these symptoms affect about 90 percent of all workers who use computers for more than three hours per day. These numbers have increased 66 percent in the last 25 years, according to the National Eye Institute.

It is possible to reduce eye strain by moving the computer to a more comfortable position to lessen strain. Taking regular breaks during the day, even as small as 10 seconds every 10 minutes is also enough to relax the eyes. Once every hour, workers should stretch for a slightly longer period of time. Glare on the screen can be reduced by either readjusting the screen or by using commercial solutions such as glare protectors.

Computer eyestrain awareness has become a major issue over the past few years and North Carolina employees should take steps to protect their eyes. If they are injured or require medical attention for their conditions, they may consider filing a workers’ compensation claim to recover compensation for their injuries.

Source: Huffington Post, “Overworked Eyes: Will Your Computer Make You Go Blind?,” Robert Joyce, July 5, 2012

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