Office workers and visual symptoms

Visual symptoms in office workers, causes and treatment

Computer-related visual symptoms in office workers

A common complaint that we hear from patients at our optometry clinic is visual symptoms at the office, especially when the using the computer.

The reasons why this complaint is so common are not surprising. In 2003, it was estimated by the United States Bureau of Labour Statistics that 55% of jobs involved computer use and now, over ten years later, this number has likely increased significantly. When all of this work-related computer use is combined with computer use outside of work, such as the use of desktop and laptop computers, tablets and other hand-held devices such as smart phones for communication and entertainment, it is obvious that the use of electronic screens is pervasive in our society. And as our nation has moved from a manufacturing society to an information society, computer-related visual problems have become a common workplace concern.  It has long been known that prolonged computer use can induce asthenopia (visual discomfort and eye strain).

In a recent survey conducted by the American Optometric Association 68% of young adults report a technology related vision problem. This result is not surprising, as visual problems in computer users has been studied for a long time and in nine studies conducted from 1974 to 1993, showed that visual symptoms related to computer use were found in 25% to 93% of computer users [see Thomson DW. Eye problems and visual display terminals the facts and the fallacies. Ophthalmic Physiol Opt 1998; 18: 111–119.]. 

In order to treat the visual problems of office workers effectively, it is important to know what factors (such as gender, ethnicity, age, smoking, type of refractive correction and hours spent doing computer work) are correlated to computer-related visual symptoms and cause computer related asthenopia to worsen. That was the subject of a study published in the September 2012 issue of the journal Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics which examined the visual symptoms of 520 New York office workers.

The authors of the study found that there was a significant positive correlation between visual symptoms and the number of hours spent working on a computer in a typical day. The most common symptom was tired eyes, which 40% of patients reported experiencing 'at least half the time'. About one third of patients reported symptoms of dry eye and eye discomfort.

Symptoms were greater in females and hispanics and those using eye drops.

People with dry eye disease (as measured by the Ocular Surface Disease Index) had a significant correlation to computer-related visual symptoms. This is possibly due to the fact that we blink less when viewing a computer screen which cases the tear film to evaporate from the surface of the eye faster than normal. This process can greatly increase visual discomfort in people who already have dry eye disease, insufficient tear production or an unhealthy tear film.


Treatments begin with appropriate office or computer eye wear that can significantly increase visual comfort when viewing computer screens. Also it is necessary to diagnose and treat the underlying eye-surface diseases like dry eye syndrome, tear gland dysfunctions, eye-lid disorders and others that are connected to computer-related visual symptoms and can worsen them. Vision rehabilitation therapy may be indicated in patients who have eye movement dysfunctions which can contribute significantly to visual discomfort and eye strain.

Symptoms of computer vision syndrome

Computer-related visual problems are often referred to as Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) The most common symptoms of CVS are the following:

  • headaches
  • focusing difficulties
  • burning eyes
  • tired eyes
  • general eyestrain
  • aching eyes
  • dry eyes
  • double vision
  • blurred vision
  • light sensitivity
  • neck and shoulder pain





Computer vision syndrome


Smart phone use is linked to dry eye disease in kids

Smartphone use and dry eye disease in kids

A recent study on smart phone use by children and dry eye disease was published in the Journal of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus.

The study concluded that  smart phone use is an important dry eye disease risk factor in children. Doctors and parents should monitor and exercise and caution regarding children's use of video display terminals, especially smart phones. However, other factors may contribute to dry eye disease. A comprehensive eye exam is needed for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Click to learn more.


Related articles:

Digital eye strain - who's at risk? 

Your iphone can be a pain in the eye 

How the iPad can wreck your vision and what to do about it

How to get the edge in video games with the right eye wear

Reading glasses are not just for people over 40 any more - digital devices to blame

Dry eye syndrome hurts work productivity and sometimes it's related to computer use

Three million Canadians suffer from computer vision syndrome