Computer Glasses vs. Bifocals for Computer Vision Syndrome
If you use computers all day, should you be wearing computer glasses to see your monitor and keyboard, or would bifocal glasses work better? For those of us who are getting older, it's quite a dilemma, and it depends on several factors.
To start with, if you're wondering about these issues, you may be experiencing some symptoms of computer vision syndrome, which include eye strain (which can lead to irritating eye conditions, like eye twitching), headaches, and fatigue. All of these symptoms have to do with the difficulty we as human beings have with trying to read small type on a backlit screen. Our eyes constantly focus and refocus on the huge amounts of text we computer workers are exposed to each day. The scrolling we do in websites, emails, PDFs, spread sheets and other documents keeps our eyes even more busy, focusing and refocusing again as the text moves up and down the screen.
Our eyes are actually trying to differentiate between the pixels that compose the text and the pixels that compose the background, and that's where the real effort comes into play. The contrast between those pixels may seem pretty good to you, but in actuality it isn't as clear-cut as it may seem. This effort is what causes the eye strain and headaches you may be experiencing, and what has inspired eye care practitioners to come up with the concept of computer vision syndrome.
So, what to do about it? If you're already wearing bifocal glasses to counteract your presbyopia (the age-related lack of ability to focus close-up), you've probably tried wearing them at your computer as well. And they may work pretty well for you if your monitor tends to be positioned at the same place that a book would be. This is because near-vision segments of bifocal or progressive lenses are typically placed lower in the lens, so you can see a book that you are holding on your lap or on a table in front of you.
If your computer monitor actually is placed at that low position (common with laptop screens, for example), then one problem you may be having is back and neck pain. We weren't meant to be hunched over with our necks bent, and after hours of this, you may be pretty uncomfortable.
The answer for that is to use a monitor that is positioned more directly in front of your eyes, so you can see it while sitting up straight. But hold on: since the close-up viewing portion of your bifocals is low in your eyeglass frame, you have to lean your head back a bit in order to see the screen.
Computer reading glasses might be a better alternative for you. They are different from regular reading glasses, in that they are designed to have a computer-distance prescription in them, so you can see your screen even if it's slightly farther away than a book would be. This positioning of the monitor is common especially among people who use two or more monitors in their work, which is becoming a fairly common phenomenon these days. Also, the prescription is generally placed throughout the entire lens, so you can look at your screen while holding your head level, instead of having to bend your neck, thus elminating one of the non-eye-related symptoms of computer vision syndrome.
Basically, you wear your computer reading glasses at the computer, and use other eyewear when you're not at the computer. So for example, if you are highly nearsighted, you might want prescription computer glasses that give you sharp vision at an intermediate range, but you'd wear them over your contact lenses that are correcting your nearsightedness. Or, if you prefer glasses instead of contacts, then you'd simply switch from your computer glasses to your regular glasses whenever you get up from the computer.
Another feature that you can get in computer reading glasses is a special tint that helps keep glare from bothering your eyes. Glare is one of the causes of the eye strain that is associated with computer vision syndrome, so don't ignore it. Backlit computer monitors are pretty bright, and looking at them is a little like staring at a light bulb. You should adjust your monitor so it isn't so bright, and keep your room lighting at a similar level, so there's not a lot of noticeable contrast between those light levels. But still, with anti-glare lenses tinted light yellow, for example, your eyes may feel more comfortable after long hours at the computer.
Over-the-counter computer glasses don't really cost very much, so you might want to try them. After a while you'll develop a good understanding of what your eyes need, and you should consult with your eye doctor about the next steps to take. He or she can prescribe custom computer glasses that are very specific to your work habits, vision needs, and computer setup, so take advantage of their knowledge, and make your long hours spent at the computer screen more fun and rewarding than ever before.
Need More Info?
Your eye doctor or optician can provide further advice, or you can visit the Consumer Guide to Eyeglasses. You can also find eyeglasses through optometrists, other eye doctors and optical stores near you.