Gaming has easily become one of the most popular pastimes in the world. Around 155 million Americans play video games regularly, and the average age of gamers is around 35 years old. This leads to an estimated 13 years a gamer plays video games. That’s the same amount of time most students spend from pre-school through high school graduation!

So, what’s the impact?
A common problem associated with gaming is Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). Symptoms for CVS may include eye strain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and neck and shoulder pain. These symptoms could be caused by poor lighting, digital screen glare, improper viewing distances, poor seating posture, uncorrected vision problems, or a combination of these factors.

Viewing a computer or digital screen is different than reading a printed page. And playing video games differs from reading an email or surfing the web. The letters on a computer or handheld device aren’t as precise or sharply defined, the level of contrast between the letters and background is reduced, and the presence of glare or reflections on the screen may make viewing difficult. Most video games have enriched, fast moving graphics, requiring your eyes to concentrate even harder!

When it comes to gaming, there are also some benefits. According to the National Institute of Health, studies have proved that playing video games enhances aspects of visual processing, and some doctors have even successfully used video game therapy to treat lazy eye.

But we’re still learning the long-term effects that video games have on our eyes. There are essential factors to keep in mind as you game that may help to reduce CVS symptoms:

Computer Screen Location
Most people find it more comfortable to view a computer when the eyes are looking downward. Optimally, the computer screen should be below eye level by about 4 or 5 inches, as measured from the center of the screen. The monitor should be a distance of 24–30 inches from your eyes.

Lighting
Position the computer or television screen to avoid glare, particularly from overhead lighting or windows. Use blinds or drapes on windows and replace the light bulbs in desk lamps with bulbs of lower wattage.

Anti-glare Screens
If there is no way to minimize glare from light sources, consider using a screen glare filter. These filters decrease the amount of light reflected from the screen.

Rest Breaks
To prevent eye strain, try to rest your eyes when using the computer or playing a gaming console for long periods. Follow the 20-20-20 rule; take a 20-second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes.

Blinking
The average person blinks once every 10 seconds, while the average gamer blinks once every 1–3 minutes. To minimize your chances of developing dry eye, make an effort to blink frequently to keep surface of your eye moist.

Eye Care
Gamers, who do not require vision correction regularly, may benefit from glasses prescribed specifically for computer use. Gamers who do wear glasses may find their current prescription doesn’t provide optimal vision for viewing a computer. Special lens designs, lens powers or lens tints or coatings may help to maximize visual abilities and comfort. Find a VSP provider near you to schedule a comprehensive exam and learn more about your specific computer needs.

So, go ahead and play video games! Just be sure to get regular eye exams, and use proper viewing habits to help to prevent or reduce symptoms associated with Computer Vision Syndrome. Also remember to game in moderation, and treat your eyes like they’re the only two you’ve got.

 

The content of this article is for general informational awareness purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult your eye care doctor or physician for actual advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This article is the work of the attributed author and does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of VSP. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.

 

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Dr. Matt Alpert is the owner and lead optometrist at Alpert Vision Care in Woodland Hills, CA.