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UA researchers design the first scientifically validated instrument to measure and prevent Computer Vision Syndrome

13 December, Saint Odilia, patron saint of opticians and optometrists

It is a new clinical profile that affects 71% of civil servants producing problems such as double or blurred vision and dry eyes; however headaches may also appear.


Civil servants at their job posts


Alicante. 13 December 2017

Exposure to data display screens such as computers, smart phones and tablets for long periods of time entails visual efforts and changes in the ocular surface, as well as in the state of the tear film. As a result, a set of symptoms, such as double vision, blurred vision or difficulty to focus are reported, which is called Computer Vision Syndrome. This is a new clinical profile that affects 71% of the staff in public administrations and also produces other problems such as dry eye, itching, photo sensitivity and headache. In order to detect it effectively and mitigate its effects, researchers from the University of Alicante Department of Optics, Pharmacology and Anatomy and theresearch group in Public Health have developed the first ever instrument worldwide that measures this syndrome in workers.

It is a questionnaire, scientifically validated by advanced  and self-administered techniques consisting of 16 items to measure the frequency of appearance and intensity of symptoms. By using this device, real data on the prevalence of the Syndrome can be obtained and thus, establish eye checkups and measures to prevent and improve this condition. This tool will be soon be available at medical services, mutual insurance companies, clinics and other universities, in several languages, through the BiblioPRO repository, virtual library for international scientific reference of the questionnaires in Spanish of Results Perceived by Patients.

The dissemination of information technologies in recent decades has led to greater use of display screens in the workplace. The European Work Conditions Survey (EWCS 2010) reveals that over 30% of workers use computers all the time during their workday. According to the 7th Spanish Work Conditions Survey  (ENCT 2011), almost half of the workers, 45%, always use data display screens. In the case of public administrations, the figure rises to 94%, which makes it relevant to address the issues related to the safety and health of workers.  "From now on, this questionnaire will be able at work to detect the Computer Vision Syndrome and therefore improve its treatment", as explained by UA researchers María del Mar Seguí and Elena Ronda, who have been working in this line of research since 2008.

According to the studies carried out by these UA experts, which have already been published in high-impact scientific journals such as the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics or the Journal of Occupational Health, the syndrome is more frequent in women, especially after menopause, and among people using soft contact lenses. Prevalence of this syndrome among professionals in public administrations reaches 71%, whereas the figure decreases to 57,5% for university lecturer and to 56,7% for healthcare workers.



Based on a comprehensive literature review, the UA researchers compiled an exhaustive list of symptoms that have been grouped into the 16 items of the questionnaire, and the most appropriate method to evaluate them from a scale was analysed. Moreover, a committee of experts in the monitoring of workers' health and optometry validated the design of this instrument with advanced Rasch analysis techniques before carrying out its application in real patients.

"We are now in a stage of disseminating the project, which have attracted the interest of many centres around the world. This interest opens up multiple opportunities for collaboration and new lines of research", María del Mar Seguí and Elena Ronda pointed out.  One of the challenges to be tackled in the framework of Computer Vision Syndrome is to study its incidence in children and adolescents in order to see if it is related to the progressive increase of myopia. "We have all adapted to the ICT revolution; however the quickness of replacing books for tables in classrooms without having clinical data about their impact on the eye health of the youngest children needs to be analysed," they warned.



In order to prevent the Computer Vision Syndrome, the University of Alicante recommends to take breaks every 20 minutes of exposure to screens and look at a remote point for 20 seconds. Also, full blinking exercises several times per minute to avoid itching and irritation, as well as adjusting the monitor to a viewing angle of 15 degrees below the horizontal level and being at a minimum distance of 50 centimetres.



Mª del Mar Seguí, Julio Cabrero-García, Ana Crespo, José Verdú, Elena Ronda. “A reliable and valid questionnaire was developed to measure computer vision syndrome at the workplace”, Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, June 2015.



University of Alicante research group involved in the design of the questionnaire



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