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Back to School Series: Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) or Digital Eye Strain (DES)


Toddler holding a smart phone too close

No longer limited to just office use, digital devices now encompass every aspect of our daily lives.

Everyone of any age has become a ‘user’ of smartphones, desktop and laptop computers, tablets, e-readers, and app-based video games. Over the years, newer smart devices have been equipped with screens that emit more high energy visible blue (LED) light than previous technologies. As a result of this newer technology and prolonged use of our digital devices, a cluster of eye and vision-related problems have developed.


Many individuals experience eye discomfort and vision problems when viewing a computer screen for extended periods of time, a phenomenon referred to as “computer vision syndrome” (CVS) in the early days from just computer use. More recently, the term “digital eye strain” (DES), encompasses the symptoms arising from using any digital device.


CVS or DES symptoms include:


· Eye fatigue

· Itchy eyes

· Double vision

· Blurry vision

· Headaches

· Dry eyes

· Difficulty refocusing from one distance to another

· Red eyes

· Burning sensation in the eyes

· Gritty feeling eyes

· Neck/lower back/shoulder pain

· Sensitivity to light

· Eye strain


With digital devices becoming commonplace in education, where tablets and apps are used for both teaching and learning, children are exposed to electronic devices for three or more hours each day.

Children are more vulnerable to CVS/DES symptoms not only due to prolonged use, but they have shorter arms and therefore utilize electronic devices at a closer range. Depending on what they are viewing or playing on an electronic device, children also have a tendency to hold them at a proximity of 5 cm (or 2 inches) from their face. Such a close viewing distance already increases eye strain, fatigue, and the risk of becoming nearsighted.


If your child experiences any or multiple symptoms listed above, visit your local optometrist. In my next blog, the final chapter of this three part Back to School Series, I'll be discussing how to improve your child's digital habits and solutions available to relieve CVS/DES symptoms.


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