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Last Updated: Monday, 12 September 2005, 11:38 GMT 12:38 UK
Warning for 'square-eyed' workers
Office
Working in front of a computer can lead to eye strain
British adults spend up to 130,000 hours during their lifetime sitting in front of a computer or TV, eye health campaigners warn.

People admitted spending up to 53 hours during a working week watching TV or staring at a computer screen.

The survey of 2,750 people was carried out by the Eyecare Trust.

And one in 10 were sure they needed to wear glasses or contact lenses, but admitted they had not been for an eye test.

Your eyes don't usually hurt when there is something wrong
Kevin Lewis, College of Optometrists

The survey of the time people spent in front of a screen, and attitudes to eyecare, was carried out to mark National Eye Week.

The Eyecare Trust, who carried out the survey with Optrex, showed people spent an average of 53 hours of "screen watching" per working week, and 49 hours when on annual leave.

Assuming that the average person works from 18 to 65 - and takes four weeks off work every year, the Eyecare Trust estimates this is 2,740 hours or three and a half months in front of a screen each year - totalling 128,780 during 47 years at work.

The survey also found that 40% were unaware that they could have a free eye examination from their employer if they regularly used a computer monitor in their job.

Almost two-thirds of those questioned said they regularly left work with a bad headache, with 53% suffering from tired or strained eyes.

A third of those questioned said they regularly put up with dry, irritated and watery eyes, while one in five even admitted to being aware of imperfections with their eyesight.

Spotting sight problems

Iain Anderson, chairman of the Eyecare Trust, said: "As computer use in the workplace and the home continues to rise, so do the number of people complaining of eyestrain.

"It's vital that computer users visit their optometrist for regular eye examinations and follow a healthy eyecare regime.

"Screen fatigue - sore, itchy, irritated eyes or temporary blurring of your vision - affects up to 90% of VDU users."

The Eyecare Trust advised:

  • Take frequent breaks
  • Make sure your monitor is set up so the centre of the screen is four to six inches below natural eye level
  • Keep blinking - concentrating on a screen reduces natural blink rate
  • Have an eye check every two years

Kevin Lewis, vice-president of the College of Optometrists said most people who had not gone for an eye test said the reason was that they had never had a problem with their eyes.

But he added: "Unlike your teeth, your eyes don't usually hurt when there is something wrong.

"Not only can an eye examination check whether your vision needs correcting with spectacles, it can also pick up signs of potentially sight threatening conditions such as glaucoma, as well as detecting underlying health problems such as high blood pressure or diabetes."

He urged people to ensure they did get their eyes examined.

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