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Computer use can develop maladies
Health advice
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We’re in the computer age and except for a few people, happy to be there. Who wants to return to the old standard typewriter and its white correction liquid or erase paper?
But, as with everything else, there is a trade-off and sitting before today’s wonderful computers has brought an increase in eyestrain and vision-related problems.
Recent research at Cornell University in New York found that computer workers who take short breaks are more productive than those who don’t take breaks. Cornell Professor Alan Hedge said workers who take breaks were 13 percent more accurate in their work than those who don’t. Another Cornell study of 4,500 office workers found eyestrain to be their chief complaint. The U.S.-based National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety said vision-related problems such as headaches, blurred vision, neck and back pain, and eye fatigue are more common than carpal tunnel complaints among office workers.
It has also been found that long hours of close work at a computer screen may lead to decreased blinking, exacerbating the symptoms of dry eye syndrome.
Some workers experience a dull ache in the front of the head that may be accompanied by tired, burning, itchy eyes, a sore neck or blurred or double vision. These symptoms are usually attributed to eyestrain headaches.
Extensive testing in laboratories has not produced any evidence that computers will harm your eyes. Research established that computers emit little or no hazardous radiation or non-ionizing radiation. The majority of symptoms seen among people who spend long hours behind a computer are usually caused by conditions surrounding the computer screen, such as poor lighting or improper placement of equipment. Here are some things to keep in mind when evaluating your workstation:
• Maintain a viewing distance of 20-26 inches from your computer screen.
• Place the computer screen slightly below eye level.
• Lighting should be modified to eliminate glare and harsh reflections.
Never discount any eye problems you experience as “merely eye strain.” Some eye symptoms are indicative of other health problems and these problems may result in loss of sight if not treated properly. Take care of your eyes — sight lost is rarely “regainable.”

Ratcliffe is a consultant to the Coastal Health District. You can call her at 876-6399.
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