Screen Savers

Computer glasses can help with headaches and eyestrain

Dr Samuel Garrett and Dr Alison Mercer talk about eye strain.

Eyestrain? Headaches? Pain in the neck? If you’re over 45, wear glasses and work at a computer for hours every day, computer glasses may be your solution.

Those who sit at the computer all day, especially those who use a desktop or separate monitor that sits higher on the desk, could see benefits from wearing glasses that offer only intermediate range vision—as opposed to bifocals, trifocals or progressive lenses, says ophthalmologist Dr. Samuel N. Garrett of Virginia Beach Eye Center.

“People where the computer is their all-day job, they need glasses that are just for that intermediate zone,” says optometrist Dr. M. Alison Mercer of Tidewater Eye Centers, with offices in Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach.

Says Garrett: “They can have a single pair of intermediate glasses and leave them at the computer. When they leave and take a coffee break, they can switch glasses.”

Trifocals and progressive lenses are usually designed with the top part of the glasses for seeing at a distance, the middle part for intermediate vision (ideal for computer use) and the bottom part for near vision. If you occasionally surf the Internet or check email, trifocals or progressive lenses will probably serve you well, Mercer says.

With progressive lenses or trifocals, you look out the middle/intermediate range of the glasses to see your computer screen. That works especially well for laptop users because the laptop screen is at the right height for looking out the middle zone of the glasses, Garrett says.

But when you look straight ahead to see a higher desktop monitor, you’re looking through the top/distance portion of progressive lenses or trifocals—when you need to be using the middle/intermediate portion of the lenses, Garrett says.

To use the intermediate range, you have to tilt your head up, causing neck pain, he says. If you let your head drop to relieve the neck pain, then you end up with eye strain from looking through the wrong zone of the glasses, he says.

“They’re tipping their head up to see the computer,” Garrett says. “Or they end up looking through the distance portion of the lens for intermediate vision and that causes eye strain.”

Says Mercer: “They could get headaches, may complain of eye pain, eye strain, eye fatigue. They may notice their vision getting blurry after being on the computer for any length of time.”

Other candidates for intermediate vision glasses include musicians because most music stands are at that intermediate range, Mercer and Garrett say. Musicians who need to see the music and then look up at the conductor may want progressive lenses or bifocals with some distance vision at the top to keep the conductor in clear sight with the rest intermediate vision for the music, Garrett says.

Additional choices for computer users include bifocal or progressive lenses that offer ideal intermediate vision at the top and near vision at the bottom, Mercer says. Those are ideal for people who alternate between computer work and looking at papers, he says.
“You put the computer vision at the top where normally distance vision is at the top,” Mercer says. “If you need a little extra for reading, you can put that at the bottom.”
If your glasses don’t have distance vision, you will need other glasses for distance—driving and even walking around the room, Mercer and Garrett note.

For the best prescription, measure the distance from your eyes to the computer screen, the music stand and the distance where you normally hold papers to read, Mercer says.
“Talk to your optician about what you do,” Garrett says. “A laptop is different from a desktop. An iPad is different from the position you hold a book.”

Finally, Mercer recommends that her patients always get the anti-glare coating on their glasses. “The reflections off the computer screen can be bothersome and contribute to eye fatigue,” she says. “Cutting the glare off the monitor by putting on the anti-reflective coating is helpful.”