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Beware of computer vision syndrome amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Amelia Rahmah Kartika
Amelia Rahmah Kartika

Medical doctor from Airlangga University

Gresik, East Java  /  Tue, August 18, 2020  /  02:57 pm
Beware of computer vision syndrome amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Illustration of a woman with computer vision syndrome. (Shutterstock/fizkes)

The COVID-19 epidemic has been going on for six months in Indonesia. The government has implemented policies such as large-scale social restrictions (PSBB), physical distancing, contact tracing and the establishment of emergency hospitals to overcome and reduce the spread of the coronavirus. 

Due to the pandemic, we have been forced to spend a lot more time at home, both for school and/or work. Inevitably, the use of gadgets continues to increase. In the latest research by GlobalWebIndex, the COVID-19 pandemic is causing changes to digital behavior. Based on a survey of internet users aged 16-64 years old conducted in 17 countries in March through April, there was a significant increase in people’s use of digital media, especially television, laptops and social media activities. Indonesia ranks third in the use of social media in the Asia Pacific.

An increase in the use of digital media means an increase in screen time. Scientific evidence shows that increased screen time is associated with health problems such as obesity, irregular sleep and eye diseases. Excessive time in front of the screen affects our food choices, including being inclined to eat carelessly and excessive snacking. In addition, the use of gadgets also makes us ignore our biological schedules and sleep late into the night, which will cause disruption of the sleep cycle.

Using a computer or a gadget for a long time will affect our eye’s health. When we fixate our eyes on the screen for a long time, the blinking reflex in the eye will be reduced, whereas the purpose of the blink itself is to keep moisture off the surface of the eye. Moreover, prolonged use of digital media has caused complaints of tired eyes and burning sensation in the eyes.

Several things in the use of computers or gadgets can cause strain on the eyes resulting in complaints of tired eyes, which are the use of prescription glasses with outdated measurements, the use of older computer monitors with lower screen resolutions and strong or harsh room lighting that causes glare effect on the screen. Furthermore, sitting position also affects eye strain if it is too bent or too close to the computer, or if the chair used is not ergonomic, such as when there is no backrest on the chair. Another thing that can increase tension in the eye is the location of the mouse that is too far from our reach, thus making our bodies closer to the screen as compensation.

Tension in the eye can cause computer vision syndrome (CVS). It is a group of symptoms that appear in the eyes and surrounding areas associated with the use of computers or gadgets routinely for three hours or more per day. The symptoms of CVS include eye aches; pain and fatigue; dry, runny or sandy eyes; and blurred vision. Beside affecting the eyes, CVS may cause other related symptoms such as pain in the neck, shoulders and back.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a big leap in digital transformation of our daily activities. This requires us to adapt to this new condition while still maintaining our eye health. Some techniques can be performed to prevent CVS symptoms. The easiest thing is to try to blink more frequently and follow the rule of 20 of computer use. The rule of 20, or 20:20:20, defines that every time we work in front of the computer for 20 minutes, we must rest our eyes for 20 seconds by looking away, at a point as far as 6 meters. Another thing that can be done to maintain eye health is to apply ergonomic principles while using a computer, such as by giving an ideal distance between the computer screen and our eyes (as far as 16-30 inches), and placing the monitor 15-20 degrees under the eyes to provide comfort to our bodies.

Another prevention method is reducing the glare effect. This can be done by facing room lights away from the computer screen, installing antiglare glass covers on the computer screen and adjusting the brightness and contrast in the monitor settings according to room lighting. Let's love our eyes by taking precautions properly and correctly. (wng)


Amelia Rahmah Kartika is a medical doctor from Airlangga University who is currently practicing at RSUD Ibnu Sina, Gresik, East Java.


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.