Computer workers: don't neglect your eyes

Eye strain from spending all day working on a PC has become so widespread that it now has its own name: computer vision syndrome,...

Eye strain from spending all day working on a PC has become so widespread that it now has its own name: computer vision syndrome, writes Nathalie Towner.

The term "eye strain" covers a range of symptoms, including irritation, soreness, photosensitivity and tiredness. According to the London Hazards Centre, surveys of people that work with a VDU for more than six hours a day show that between 70% and 91% experience visual problems.

Anyone experiencing eye strain should visit an optician and, even if all appears to be in working order, regular check-ups are recommended. However, few of us actually do this.

Perhaps there would be a higher take-up if more computer workers realised that they can be seen by an optician free of charge.

Under the Health and Safety Regulations 1992, people who use a VDU as an habitual part of their job are entitled to an eye test administered by a qualified professional and paid for by their employer.

Research carried out by the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association found that more than one third of workers who use a VDU are not aware of their statutory right to an eye test, and of those who knew they were entitled to one, 49% had never taken up the offer. They had "never got round to it", "never thought about it" or "weren't bothered". Most of these were men who do not wear glasses or contact lenses.

The charity launched a campaign today (20 June) to try to increase awareness of the problem. It points out that eye tests can reveal much more than impending eye conditions, they can also detect internal medical problems such as diabetes and jaundice.

As part of the Guide Dogs for the Blind campaign, City University has developed Vision Screener, a computer program designed to detect potential vision defects and alert the user that they may need to go for a proper eye test. It can be downloaded from the charity's Web site.

To take the test, participants need to use special 3D glasses that are available from the charity or from retailers Dorothy Perkins and Burton for a suggested donation of £1.

Whatever you decide to do, the message is simple: don't neglect your eyes.

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