I’m going to let you in on a little secret. A secret which optometrists have apparently mostly been keeping to themselves. And a secret I’d never have been let in on if my friend Maggie hadn’t accidentally left her glasses on my desk recently.
The temptation was too great, of course. Having recently discovered that my sort-of-adopted-daughter and I can swap distance glasses at a pinch, I was curious to know how I’d get on with Maggie’s specs. So, seated at my computer, I put them on – and it was literally as if the scales had fallen from my eyes. The screen was crystal clear, easy-to-read – making me realise, in a flash, that until I slipped Maggie’s specs onto my nose, I’d actually been squinting at it in an attempt to get that sharp focus. ‘Ah, that’s what a screen is supposed to look like!’, my inner voice exclaimed. I speed-dialled my friend. ‘Yes, they’re my computer glasses,’ she explained. ‘Life-changing.’
Well, quite. But the thing is, no optician had ever breathed a word to me about the possibility of having computer glasses, also sometimes known as ‘screen glasses’. In the past, I’d tried my reading prescription for working at my screen – and everything looked fuzzy. My distance prescription was hopeless, too. But this ‘third way’…? I made a Vision Express appointment pronto, to find out more.
Like most people, I am completely dependent on my gadgets, spending hours and hours every day looking at a screen of one size or another – a desktop computer, a laptop, an iPad and an inordinate amount of time looking at my phone. On a bad day, I can notch up 14 hours at a screen – and as a result, by bedtime my eyes feel exhausted, sometimes dry and even gritty. At that point, the last thing I want to do is look at a book or magazine. In fact, often, when I look up from a screen everything looks blurry – with my eyes taking time to adjust.
Now I discover there’s a name for this: ‘Computer Vision Syndrome’, caused by looking at a computer screen for long periods of time without adequate eye protection. Computer glasses, or screen glasses, are specifically designed to offer that protection – yet doing a straw poll among my friends and colleagues, aside from Maggie not a soul had heard with them. And these are people who – like me – also spend their days staring at one screen or another.
You’ll have to specify ‘screen glasses’ when getting your eyes tested. This third prescription – neither for close work, nor distance – is based on looking at the usual selection of letters from the alphabet and snippets of printed text that are used for a close-up prescription – but those will in this case be positioned around 18 inches away from you, which is how far most of us sit from a screen.
The measurements will go on a regular-looking prescription. I was all but panting while waiting for mine to be m made up as specs – in frames chosen specifically so they couldn’t be confused with my other glasses (actually, with a slightly random turquoise blob on the arms. But hey, it works.) The lenses are specifically non-reflective, to reduce glare – and also slightly tinted to counterbalance the blue light from a screen that I know keeps me awake at night. I’m having to be strict about not Instagramming after bedtime, knowing that these new lenses go some way to preventing the late night alertness I know comes from looking at a screen after 8 p.m. Otherwise that stack of novels beside my bed is never going to shrink.
And yes, my specs are life-changing in other ways. No squinting. (Which should also slow down the development of fine lines around my eyes, and the furrow between my brows.) No eye tiredness. What’s more, I actually find it easier to power through a task, and trot towards a deadline rather than becoming distracted – which I figure is because on some level, my eyes were screaming for a rest.
Computer glasses differ from regular glasses in that they are specifically made to help reduce the eye strain associated with computer work.
The average person works approximately eight hours a day in front of a computer. These long hours make us more prone to vision-related problems. And sadly, we’ve become accustomed to the fact that our eyes just feel tired and irritated at the end of the workday.
The anti-reflective coating on computer glasses helps reduce the glare that bounces off the screen and light coming from the device. Glass colour tinting is also a function that helps increase the screen’s contrast without making it too harsh for your eyes.
Types of Lenses
Most computers are distanced at 20 to 26 inches from the user’s eyes, and this is considered to be the intermediate zone. However, just like in regular glasses, not everyone’s eyes are the same in each zone.
There are several different lenses that are offered with computer glasses:
- Single vision computer glasses reduce the risk of blurred vision, eye strain, and bad posture. Single vision lenses are for any age computer user.
- Occupational progressive lenses are a multifocal lens that corrects near, intermediate, and distance vision. These lenses give you a larger more comfortable vision at the computer, but it is not recommended for longer distance tasks.
- Occupational bifocal and trifocal lenses offer a higher zone for intermediate and near vision rather than regular bifocal and trifocal lenses. The position of the intermediate and near vision zones can be customized to your specific computer needs.
Benefits of Wearing Computer Glasses
No one enjoys eyestrain, blurred vision, or constant computer-related headaches. Glare reduction, an increase in contrast, and being able to look at the screen for longer periods of time are benefits that come with computer glasses.
In the workplace, we sometimes feel it’s necessary to peer over our glasses or hunch closer to the computer to be able to read the screen better. But we all know this isn’t helping. Computer glasses promote clearer vision, which reduces the need to strain your back and neck.
Are You The Right Candidate?
Not everyone needs computer glasses. If you don’t experience constant eye strain or you don’t have a problem with your vision while at a computer, then computer glasses may not be for you. However, if you are constantly experiencing eye strain then computer glasses may be exactly what you need.
Your optometrist can help you find the right pair of computer glasses for your everyday workplace needs. Find a doctor near you, and see if you’re the right candidate for computer glasses.