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Environmental / Occupational Issues

Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS)





Most worker health surveys show that the most frequent health related complaints among workers at VDTs are visually related.
Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is the complex of eye and vision problems related to near work which are experienced during or related to computer use. CVS is characterized by visual symptoms which result from interaction with a computer display or its environment. In most cases, symptoms occur because the visual demands of the task exceed the visual abilities of the individual to comfortably perform the task.

Vision problems occur frequently among video display terminal (VDT) workers. Most worker health surveys show that the most frequent health related complaints among workers at VDTs are visually related. However, more public and professional attention is currently being directed towards the avoidance of musculoskeletal disorders such as wrist problems (e.g., Carpal Tunnel Syndrome), bursitis, muscle strains (e.g., neck tension syndrome), tendon disorders (e.g., de Quervain's disease), and tenosynovitis (e.g., trigger finger) among others. These disorders are generally classified as Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTD) or as Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI).

VDT related vision problems are at least as significant a health concern as the musculoskeletal disorders. Most studies indicate that visual symptoms occur in 50-90% of VDT workers, while a study released by NIOSH showed that 22% of VDT workers have musculoskeletal disorders. A survey of optometrists indicated that 10 million primary eye care examinations are provided annually in this country primarily because of visual problems at VDTs - not a small public health issue. Vision problems are pervasive among computer workers and are the source of worker discomfort and decreased work performance.

There appears to be a communication gap regarding the nature and extent of vision problems related to VDT use. The vision problems experienced by VDT workers are varied and are difficult to grasp and understand by those who don't specialize in vision. The misunderstanding may also be the result of unfounded reports of cataracts caused by VDTs, exaggerated manufacturer claims about the need for UV and other radiation protections, and misleading statements about the effects of specialty tinted and coated lenses (e.g., computer glasses) among other products.

In order to improve communication and understanding of the vision problems at computers, the American Optometric Association supports the use of the term "Computer Vision Syndrome" (CVS) to broadly encompass the visual problems experienced at VDTs. CVS can be used to refer to the entirety of visual problems experienced by computer users and therefore improve communication and understanding of these problems. However, since there is not a single factor or visual disorder which causes the visual problems at computers, CVS encompasses many different symptoms, disorders and treatments.

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