Computer users suffering from CVS or Digital Eye Strain
Computer users suffering from CVS or Digital Eye Strain

Computer Vision Syndrome: Concern for 21st Century officialdom

Vision occurs when light is processed by the eye and interpreted by the brain. Light passes through the transparent eye surface (the cornea).


The pupil, the black opening in the front of the eye, is an opening to the eye interior. In the 21st Century, which is referred to as information age, there is an increased use of computers and other digital gadgets, including but not limited to mobile phones which are used daily in offices and homes. Some of these digital devices with screens create health problems for users.

One such digital-use problem, which causes eye problems is called computer vision syndrome (CVS), which according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is increasingly afflicting more people who constantly use computers, mobile phones and other digital devices for work.

Constant viewing of the digital screens can affect the eye. However, most eye health professionals are yet to find CVS as a cause of any permanent eye damage even though its resultant pain and discomfort can affect work performance.

With a few preventive measures, however, the symptoms associated with CVS can be easily erased. Although computer vision syndromes are becoming a major public health concern, less emphasis is given to them, particularly in developing countries.

Public education is important in this regard. This constitutes the impetus for this article. 


CVS is also called Digital Eye Strain (DES). It is a phenomenon linked to ever increasing use of digital screens. It affects a large number of individuals, including children. Recognising the causative and alleviating factors of CVS may help establish appropriate measures as its antidotes.

The COVID-19 pandemic, for example, compelled more virtual meetings which made workers and students use computer screens for days. According to an empirical study, about 74 per cent of the participants experienced CVS during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given this finding, it is essential to implement preventive and therapeutic measures to reduce the risk of developing CVS and to improve the quality of life of screen digital users.

What then is CVS? Basically, it is the collective term used to describe eye problems that are related to or caused by prolonged viewing of computer and other digital screens. These eye problems may be dry eye, itchy eyes, red eyes and blurred vision. Gradually, these visual problems emanate from overuse of computer and other visual display devices. They are fairly a serious concern for eye care professionals.

Said differently, the term CVS is applied collectively to a set of different symptoms in computer users who are either habitually or on compulsion using computers for a long time during day and night.

Children and students of any age have also gradually switched to computer-based learning, thinking that it is a better option than classroom teachings. Advisedly, therefore, prolonged digital screen users must become aware of the prevalence, pathophysiology, factors associated with, and prevention or minimisation of CVS. 

Causes, symptoms and diagnosis

The syndrome (CVS) comprises various visual and non-visual symptoms among computer users who are using these devices for an unduly long period. The main cause of CVS includes unsuitable environment and improper use of eyeglasses or contact lenses.

Computer screen use results in a decrease of blinking the eye, while the straight-ahead gaze required to look at a screen exposes more of the eye to the air. This occurrence causes the eye to dry out and become itchy much faster than usual, especially when a contact lens is resting on the cornea.

Once frequent blinking is not enough to eliminate the dryness and itching, an eye care professional can prescribe eye drops made especially for contact lenses.

Symptoms of CVS include eye irritation (dry, itchy and red eyes), blurred vision, double vision, back, neck and shoulder pains (due to poor alignment and posture when using the computer or digital device), headaches and muscle fatigue, among others. 

Most of these symptoms are short term (temporary). The symptoms often lessen or go away when the affected person stops using the computer or digital device. In some cases, symptoms may continue for a longer time.

Although CVS has not been found to cause any permanent damage to the eye, its painful symptoms can affect performance at work and home. Fortunately, eye health professionals have found several ways to prevent CVS from affecting computer users.  

Regarding CVS diagnosis, the eye healthcare professionals make a diagnosis with a health history and complete eye examination. They usually assess if any health problems, medicines or environmental factors might be adding to the symptoms mentioned herein.


Treatment for CVS includes, look away from the digital screen for at least 20 minutes; enlarg the texts on computer or phone screen; reduce glare from the light sources in your environment; remember to blink often; fix your chair height so your feet can rest comfortably on the floor. Do not slump over the computer screen, use lubricating drops; treating allergies, if you have them.


Others are create a more humid work environment; drink more fluids (stay hydrated), take a prescription medicine to increase tear production, use blue block or photochromic lenses.


In the 21st Century, computers and other visual display devices have definitely brought a tremendous change in our lifestyles. This leads to alarmingly high incidence of serious visual problems associated with a prolonged use of such digital equipment with screens.

These computer eye problems are collectively called Computer Vision Syndrome or Digital Eye Strain. Screen users should eschew prolonged viewing of such screens.  

The writer is a Hospital Administrator 
Email: [email protected]


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