Computer Vision Syndrome: What Every Writer Needs to Know

Illustration of a man with red eye looking at a laptop screen.

There is one part of being a freelance writer that is hard to get away from, no matter what kind of writing you do, and that is spending long hours staring at a computer screen. If you’ve ever felt like your vision isn’t as sharp as normal at the end of a long day of writing, or if you seem to keep getting headaches that you can’t explain, you could be suffering from a condition that affects many people whose jobs entail looking at a screen: computer vision syndrome. This condition isn’t just a fancy name for watery or itchy eyes. It’s a real, recognized medical condition that could impact your ability to do your job in the short term and cause permanent damage to your eyesight in the long run. Every writer needs to know about computer vision syndrome and how to reduce the risk of developing it. This information will help you protect your eyes while you’re building your freelance writing career.

What exactly is computer vision syndrome?

Illustration of an eye focusing on a point.Computer vision syndrome, or CVS, refers to a group of eye strain issues that are associated with screen time. As many as 90% of people who spend most of their working day on computers are affected. For freelance writers, the glare of the computer screen is usually the culprit.

The constant refocusing of your eyes that occurs when you use a computer is often to blame as well. Every time you take your eyes off the screen to look at your keyboard or anything else in the room and then turn them back to the computer, your eyes have to refocus. Moving images on the screen and the way your eyes move back and forth as you read also trigger this refocusing, which in turn causes strain on your eyes. CVS can be the result.

What are the symptoms of computer vision syndrome?

Illustration of a person with a headache.Blurry vision, double vision, red eyes, and general eye irritation are the most common telltale signs of CVS. People with CVS also tend to develop headaches on a frequent basis, as a result of eye strain. They may also experience neck and back pain caused by leaning in and out and craning your neck to see the screen.

How can I avoid computer vision syndrome?

Illustration of a pair of eyeglasses.Reducing the risk of CVS is essential for writers. Fortunately, it’s easy to do, with a few tweaks to your usual routine. You can protect your eyes with these strategies:

  • Try to put anything you need to reference in a position in which you don’t need to lower your head to see them. Keeping a document holder by your monitor can help.
  • Take frequent breaks. Every 20 minutes, look away from the computer for 20 seconds. Every two hours, take a 15-minute eye break.
  • Use a bright overhead light, and shine your desk lamp on the desk, not towards your face. Get an anti-glare screen for your monitor.
  • Ask your doctor about prescription glasses made for computer use.

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