VDT User’s Guide to Better Vision

Dramatic VDT growth
Eye FatigueAs one of the millions of Americans who uses a video display terminal (VDT) on the job or at home, you are probably experiencing an increase in your productivity. But, you may also be experiencing headaches, blurry or double vision and itchy, burning eyes more than ever before.

These symptoms, as well as eye fatigue, eye irritation, excessive tearing, dry eye, pain in the eyes and frequent blinking and squinting, may be related to your VDT use.

Don’t worry. You don’t have to give up your VDT and go back to doing your work the old fashioned paper and pencil way. You should not, however, ignore the problem and hope will go away. It most likely will not.

Your VDT eye examination
Due to the unique characteristics and high visual demands of VDT work, you should have a comprehensive eye examination prior to or soon after beginning your VDT work and periodically thereafter. Your examination should include:

  • A general and eye health history.
  • A specific history relating to VDT work. Be prepared to describe the type of VDT work you do; the number of hours; continuity and time of the day of VDT work; size and color of your screen and screen characters; positions and work distances in your workstation; light sources; and type, severity and frequency of your symptoms.
  • A measurement of visual acuity at distance and appropriate working distances.
  • Evaluation of internal and external eye health.
  • Refraction at distance and near working distances.
  • Assessment of eye focusing.
  • Evaluation of eye coordination and eye movement skills.

If the results of your examination indicate, your doctor of optometry may do additional tests based on your specific needs.

Common vision problems
An inadequate or outdated spectacle or contact lens prescription that blurs your vision only slightly can cause a great deal of difficulty in using your VDT. That’s why a comprehensive examination is so important.

You may have a previously unnoticed vision problem like presbyopia, eye coordination difficulties, farsightedness or astigmatism that becomes much more apparent with VDT use.

If you have presbyopia, your eyes are losing their ability to focus on near objects due to the natural aging process. To correct presbyopia and make your VDT work more comfortable, your doctor may prescribe single vision lens for you to use with the VDT or special occupational bifocals or trifocals to provide clear vision at all distances.

If your problem is farsightedness, VDT use can cause you to use extra focusing effort. You will have to work harder tomaintain a clear focus. This may cause eye strain and fatigue. Astigmatism may cause your vision to be blurred at all distances. To correct both conditions, your doctor of optometry can prescribe lenses to make your VDT work more efficient and comfortable.

Poor eye focusing ability, from near to far and far to near, can cause temporary blurring of vision and make VDT work more difficult. Eyeglasses, contact lenses or vision therapy can improve focusing ability.

Good eye coordination is important in efficient, comfortable VDT use. An eye coordination problem can cause eye strain, fatigue and headaches while you are working at your VDT or doing other close work. Prescription lenses and vision therapy can help your eye coordination

The ergonomics of vision and VDTs
There are a number of things that you can do in your workstation area to improve visual efficiency:

  • Take alternative task breaks throughout the day.
  • When viewing screens with dark backgrounds, use lower lighting (about 20 to 70 foot candles or about one-half the normal office lighting).
  • The brightness of the VDT screen and the surroundings should be closely matched.
  • The contrast between the screen background and the screen characters should be high. Dark characters on a light screen are generally more legible than light characters on a dark screen.
  • Minimize glare on your VDT screen with a glare reduction filter (look for one with the AOA Seal of Acceptance); by repositioning your VDT screen; and by using drapes or window treatments. To locate sources of glare place a small mirror in front of your VDT screen. Keeping your VDT screen clean can also help reduce glare.
  • Use an adjustable chair that allows you to sit at a comfortable height, angle and distance from the VDT screen.
  • Choose a VDT with a detachable key-board; a screen that tilts and swivels; and contrast and brightness controls.
  • Reference material should be on an adjustable holder, close to your screen and at the same viewing distance.

VDTs and your children
Millions of children use VDTs in school and at home for education and recreation. Don’t forget that these suggestions for comfortable, visually efficient VDT use apply to them, too. A properly designed workstation area and regular optometric care will help them enjoy their VDT use more.

Working smarter
The purpose of your VDT is to help you ”work smarter.” By taking care of your eyes and vision and paying attention to the environment around your workstation, you’ll feel better and accomplish more.