Video Display Terminals

Complaints of eye discomfort and fatigue are becoming more common as use of video display terminals (VDTs) increases. While it is true that VDTs can cause eyestrain, there is no convincing evidence that VDTs can harm the eyes.

Some people fear VDTs emit damaging ultraviolet light or radiation. The amount of ultraviolet light emitted by VDTs is a fraction of what is emitted from a fluorescent light. Radiation levels from VDTs are so low a lifetime of exposure will not damage the eyes. After prolonged use of a VDT, black and white objects may appear colored, but this is not a sign of eye damage.

Symptoms of eyestrain are eye irritation (red, watery or dry eyes), eye fatigue (tired, aching heaviness of the eyelids or forehead), difficulty in focusing, and headaches. However, eyestrain does not result in permanent eye damage.

Eyestrain, backache and muscle spasms may improve with proper arrangement of the VDT and seating area. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides helpful suggestions on workstation arrangement.

It is important to wear appropriate glasses adjusted for the distance from the VDT. Most VDT users prefer to position the screen farther from where they normally read. Prescription glasses should be adjusted accordingly.

Take periodic rest breaks. Using a VDT requires an unchanging body, head, and eye position that can be fatiguing. Lubricate the eyes by blinking frequently or using artificial tears (lubricating eye drops.) Keep workstation clean to minimize eye irritation from dust.

Minimize light glare by adjusting office lights or using hoods or filters on the video screen. Standard office lighting is too bright for comfortable VDT use.

What is an Eye M.D.?

Ophthalmologists are Eye M.D.s, medical doctors specializing in eye and vision care. An Eye M.D. can provide a variety of eye care services, from prescribing eyeglasses to performing complex eye surgery.

In addition to the four years of medical school and one year in an internship, Eye M.D.s spend a minimum of three additional years of residency (hospital-based training). Eye M.D.s often spend an additional one to two years training in a subspecialty area such as retina or cornea.

Many Eye M.D.s are “Board-Certified,” which means he or she has passed a rigorous two-part examination given by the American Board of Ophthalmology. This exam tests not only the doctor’s medical knowledge, but also the ability to provide expert care to patients.

Many eye health care providers can now use the term “Doctor” in front of their name, or are allowed to call themselves “physicians” even though they are not medical doctors. This does not mean they have the same training or ability to manage and treat all eye diseases or conditions as a medical doctor or Eye M.D.

An optometrist (O.D.) is not a medical doctor, and does not have the training to do surgery or treat some eye conditions. Optometrists are trained to diagnose eye abnormalities and prescribe, supply and adjust eyeglasses and contact lenses. In most states, optometrists can also use drugs to treat certain eye disorders.

An optician fits, supplies, and adjusts eyeglasses and contact lenses. An optician cannot examine the eyes or prescribe eyeglasses or medication.

It is important to remember an ophthalmologist-an Eye M.D.-is the only eye care provider who has the training to diagnose and manage all eye diseases and perform surgery.

Workplace Eye Safety

Eye injuries at work are common. Every year about 70,000 workers injure their eyes. Luckily, 90 percent of all workplace eye injuries are preventable with the use of proper safety eyewear.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides regulations which employers and employees must follow. OSHA reports that nearly three out of every five workers injured were not wearing eye protection at the time of their accident. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) provides these standards of eye protection for any workplace task.

  • Unprotected workers will not knowingly be subjected to environmental hazards.
  • Protective eyewear is required whenever there is a reasonable probability eye injury may occur.
  • Employers must provide the type of eye protection best suited to the task to be performed.
  • Employees are required to use the eye protectors provided.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that eye injuries in the workplace cost over $467 million annually. A written eye safety program should be implemented in the workplace to help prevent workplace eye injuries. Employers should consider these tips in developing their safety plan:

  • Determine potential of eye injury for the tasks performed.
  • Decide how best to protect against the injury, e.g., dark lenses for welding, face-shield for flying objects, tight seal for chemical spills, etc.
  • Identify the visual needs of the job, e.g., magnification, dark lenses, etc.
  • Post rules requiring when and how eye protection should be used.
  • Provide adequate supplies of eye protection and have them readily available at the work site.
  • Instruct employees on appropriate treatment if injury should occur.
  • Require vision screening for new employees to determine any eye disease.
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