We all know that staring at a computer screen all day probably isn’t good for us. Hours spent browsing the Internet or creating spreadsheets can lead to a condition known as Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), which is characterized by eye discomfort, bad posture, and an overall reduction in productivity. To combat CVS, German optics manufacturer ZEISS created a line of spectacles that aim to correct this modern-day malady. Last month, I put a pair of ZEISS Officelens glasses to the test to see if and how they changed my office experience.
What’s the Deal?
Computer Vision Syndrome is basically a fancy way of saying you stare at a lit computer screen for too much time every day. Perusing hours of BuzzFeed articles (or you know, actually working) makes the eyes work much harder than they do when skimming a paper page. To read off a computer screen, the eyes must stay completely focused, which means they blink less frequently — this results in common CVS symptoms like dry eyes, blurred vision, headaches, and strained eyes Blink rate, incomplete blinks and computer vision syndrome. Portello JK, Rosenfield M, Chu CA. Optometry and Vision Science. 2013 May; 90(5):482-7..
According to some studies, between 64 and 90 percent of computer users have experienced CVS at one point or another A comparison of symptoms after viewing text on a computer screen and hardcopy. Chu, C., Rosenfield, M., Portello, JK, et al. SUNY College of Optometry, State University of New York, New York. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, 2011 Jan;31(1):29-32. Computer vision syndrome: a review of ocular causes and potential treatments. Rosenfield, M. SUNY College of Optometry, New York. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, 2011 Sep;31(5):502-15. Factors like room lighting, screen lighting, distance from the screen, the position of the computer, and seating posture can affect the severity of CVS symptoms. People who wear corrective glasses or contact lenses are more at risk for CVS than lucky folks who boast 20/20 vision.
Since I wear contact lenses, use a computer for between nine and a gazillion hours per day, and have dry eyes to begin with, it’s safe to say that CVS is my homeboy. So when ZEISS offered to let me try out their Officelens glasses, I jumped at the chance.
After a brief fitting and shopping for frames (tortoiseshell or mahogany?), I was ready to show my computer who was boss! But as I waltzed out the door sporting my new specs, the sales assistant stopped me in my tracks. My brand-spanking-new glasses were the “Officelens Book” model, which are designed to sharpen close-range vision and reduce eye strain. But they only offer clear vision three feet in front of my nose (other varieties of glasses offer full visibility up to 14 feet), meaning walking onto a busy NYC street with blurry distance vision was not such a good idea.
I planned to wear the special spectacles every day for one week to see how they affected both productivity and comfort; after safely returning to the office, I switched to the ZEISS glasses and got to work. As promised, the super-powered specs brought my computer screen into sharp focus and prevented the headaches I often get towards the end of the day. The special glasses made working for long stretches of time more comfortable — at least when I kept my eyes on the prize. However, whenever I glanced around the room or turned my head to chat with Nicole, the artificial nearsightedness made me dizzy and occasionally gave me headaches. I tried to remember to change to my normal glasses when not actually working, but it proved difficult (especially in Greatist’s fun-but-chaotic work environment, where coworkers often swing by for a quick brainstorming session). After a week of scrambling to switch my lenses 20 or 30 times a day, I was exhausted and resumed wearing my regular (CVS-inducing) glasses.
Unless you spend a lot of time typing and practically never leave your desk, the Officelens Book edition is probably not a smart investment. I didn’t test out the “Desk” and “Room” Officelens models (which feature seven and 14 feet-vision radii, respectively), but they’re probably less debilitating when it comes to distance vision. While I appreciated the crisper vision and fewer headaches that the ZEISS glasses provided, the hassle outweighed the benefits for me.
In the future, I’ll be protecting my eyes from Computer Vision Syndrome the old-fashioned way: by taking regular breaks and following the 20-20-20 rule, which recommends resting the eyes every 20 minutes by gazing for 20 seconds at an object 20 feet away. Preventing CVS is as good an excuse as any to take work breaks, right?
Would you buy a special pair of glasses for computer work? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments below or get in touch with the author @SophBreene.