Screen Zombies, Part 1
Updated: Aug 30, 2020
An Intro to Computer Vision Syndrome
What is Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS)? Before I list the symptoms, you probably already know what it is. CVS is that eyes-glazed-over, tired zombie-like feeling you get after working at your computer or playing games on your phone.
We've all been there. It starts with you cranking away at your e-mail inbox, or your full immersion in the depths of some spreadsheet or report. Or maybe you're crowded around a single laptop like the people on Stock Image Work Team in the image above. Whatever the case, when you're done you look up from the screen, sit back from the computer, rub your eyes and think, "Where am I, what day is it, and why was I the only one who brought a laptop to this meeting?"
But let's face it: pretty much every job these days requires staring at a computer screen. I'm an eye doctor, and I spend more than 75% of my workday looking at my monitor. The actual time I spend examining a patient is much less than the necessary coordination, scheduling, and charting--all done by computer.
Elsewhere in my office we have staff members who work closely with patients, but most of their day is still spent on the computer. A survey of 2,000 office workers by Acuvue in 2018 revealed that they averaged about 1,700 hours on their computer per year, or almost 7 hours per workday. That's a lot of screen time--and we still haven't added in time on phones or computers after getting home from work!
As an optometrist, I see the effects of all this screen time in clinical practice. I often ask patients if they've ever heard of Computer Vision Syndrome, and most of them say, "I've never heard that term before, but just by the sound of it I already know exactly what you're talking about." Then as I list the symptoms of CVS--dry eyes, digital eye strain, headaches, eye fatigue, etc.--these patients start nodding their head. They can relate to this feeling. They sometimes mention that the symptoms are worse in the afternoon towards the end of the work day. I like to tell them that they are not alone, that there are millions of people going through the same experience every day on the job.
Even though all the symptoms of CVS are related to excess screen time, how they manifest as symptoms for patients are quite different. Over the next several blog posts I'll unpack the key details for each one. Little by little, we'll see what goes into making a Screen Zombie.