Professors, architects, gamers, receptionists and graphic designers all have one thing in common, according to a new study: They're all at risk for computer vision syndrome.
As many as 70 million people worldwide suffer from the syndrome, which has a range of symptoms, including blurry vision, irritated and bloodshot eyes, dry eyes, burning and itching. Overall, that's 70 to 90 percent of the computer-using public, according to a study by Nigerian and Botswanan eye specialists which was published in the scientific journal Medical Practice and Reviews.
Although eye problems are the most common negative side effect associated with using computers, the authors also looked at data from four additional studies to conclude that people who use computers for extended periods are also at risk for neck pain, lower back pain, headaches and stress.
It only takes three hours a day staring at the screen for the symptoms to manifest, The New York Times reported.
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Computer vision syndrome is also known as digital eye strain, according to the American Optometric Association. The association points out that the problem isn't restricted to desktop computers -- people who spend hours using tablets, cellphones and even e-readers are at risk. Any digital screen can contribute to the problem, and the longer a person stares at a screen, the more they're at risk for developing symptoms.
So what should people do if using a computer is an integral part of their jobs?
Some people may need to get prescription glasses or contact lenses made specifically to reduce eye strain, the AOA says. Others may benefit from vision therapy, or visual training, which involves exercises that train "the eyes and brain to work together," according to the AOA.
People who suffer eye problems from prolonged computer use can also ease their symptoms by making sure their monitors are placed properly and their chairs are positioned not too close to the screen, but not too far either. Eyes should be level with the top of the computer monitor, not the middle, according to The New York Times, while users should sit so their heads are between 20 to 26 inches away from the screen.
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Users who have control of their environment can also ease the strain on their eyes by lowering ambient light, making sure the monitor is brightly lit in contrast, and using anti-glare covers.