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How PC users can prevent eye strain and headaches

(MoneyWatch) If you spend any significant amount of time in front of a computer, you probably are at risk of eye strain, along with a host of physical problems that result from this condition. Unfortunately, this isn't a problem that's easy to avoid; overall, our time in front of computer screens is going up, not down.

The Vision Council, an organization representing the optical industry, recently released a 16-page online document that explains the problems associated with eye strain and makes recommendations for how to combat it. Rather than serving as an advertisement for your local optometrist, this report is chock full of information you should read and apply to your own office environment.

How do you know if you're a victim of eye strain and similar issues related to staring at a computer screen all day? The Vision Council lists some key things to look for, including recurring headaches, neck pain from poor monitor positioning, back pain from poor posture, blurred vision, dry eyes and redness. The council makes some recommendations for combating these effects:

  • Reduce glare by adjusting screen brightness and changing the background color of your display
  • Keep the screen clean
  • Dim the lighting around your PC
  • Don't sit too close
  • Position the screen slightly below eye level, and don't tilt it
  • Increase the text size

There are other recommendations, including a diagram of how you should sit in front of your PC for optimal physical comfort.

One other tip from my own experience. I once suffered significant back and shoulder pain on a regular basis. Eventually, my optometrist suggested that it was because of my graduated lenses, which forced me to constantly tilt my head so I could see the monitor though the bottom of my eyeglasses.

As much as I didn't want a second pair of glasses, I tried getting a set optimized for desk work. Almost immediately, my back pain went away, and now I can't imagine working at my PC with those older, general-purpose graduated lenses. I immediately notice how I have to tilt my head to read anything on the screen.

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