Purpose: Computer vision syndrome (CVS) is a complex of eye and vision problems experienced during or related to computer use. Ocular symptoms may include asthenopia, accommodative and vergence difficulties and dry eye. CVS occurs in up to 90% of computer workers, and given the almost universal use of these devices, it is important to identify whether these symptoms are specific to computer operation, or are simply a manifestation of performing a sustained near-vision task.
Method: This study compared ocular symptoms immediately following a sustained near task. 30 young, visually-normal subjects read text aloud either from a desktop computer screen or a printed hardcopy page at a viewing distance of 50 cm for a continuous 20 min period. Identical text was used in the two sessions, which was matched for size and contrast. Target viewing angle and luminance were similar for the two conditions. Immediately following completion of the reading task, subjects completed a written questionnaire asking about their level of ocular discomfort during the task.
Results: When comparing the computer and hardcopy conditions, significant differences in median symptom scores were reported with regard to blurred vision during the task (t = 147.0; p = 0.03) and the mean symptom score (t = 102.5; p = 0.04). In both cases, symptoms were higher during computer use.
Conclusions: Symptoms following sustained computer use were significantly worse than those reported after hard copy fixation under similar viewing conditions. A better understanding of the physiology underlying CVS is critical to allow more accurate diagnosis and treatment. This will allow practitioners to optimize visual comfort and efficiency during computer operation.