Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) and the Effects of Yoga Practice: A Study

Dept of Yoga Research, Ghantali Mitra Mandal, Thane (Maharashtra)

Here is some important information for all computer users. Computer use is becoming the number one cause of eyestrain all over the world. Ninety percent of people using computers for six to eight hours per day suffer from computer related health problems. Almost 75 million Americans use computers for six to eight hours every day. In an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) survey, it emerged that 15 million people in India were using computers in 1999, and an exponential increase since then can be expected.

Computer Vision Syndrome

Prolonged computer use leads to a lot of health hazards with the eyes being the most affected target organ. Working with a computer for a prolonged time without a break leads to strain on the eyes. Contributing factors include: a reduction in the blink rate due to constant staring at the screen; a relatively decreased humidity in the working atmosphere; and the possibility of undiscovered refractory errors, which may worsen other problems.

Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is defined as a complex of eye and vision problems that are experienced during and related to computer use, and which may be temporary or permanent. The symptoms of CVS are: diffuse eye ache, headache, photophobia, blurred or double vision, ocular itching, dry and irritated eyes, watering of eyes, nausea, burning of eyes, dark spots in front of eyes, decreased speed of reading, pain after movement of eyeball, worsening of far-sightedness, near-sightedness and astigmatism, neck pain and backache.

How yoga can help

Normally the eyes are protected by a layer of tear film which covers the cornea and sclera. A normal tear film protects against eye infection and helps to supply sufficient nutrition and oxygen to the eyes. A normal tear film remains intact for 5 to 8 seconds and with every blinking, it breaks and reforms itself. Tear break up time is used to test the time the tear film remains intact over the corneal surface. A longer tear break up time gives greater protection to the eyes. Even a slight elongation of tear break up time may bridge the gap between tear break up time and blink time, thus improving the protection of the eye surface.

The ability to see clearly in different directions, at different distances and differential intensities of light is due to the coordination of eye muscles. Like other muscles, the eye muscles react to stress by becoming chronically over-contracted, causing eyestrain, which in turn contributes to many eye problems. Therefore, relaxation is the key and the basis of yogic eye therapy. Yogic eye exercises and relaxation of eye muscles help to reduce eyestrain and also build up the stamina of eye muscles.

Yogic intervention takes into account all levels of being: physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual. “Problems of vision are more associated with the mind than is ordinarily supposed. The fact is that when the mind is at rest, nothing can strain the eyes, and when the mind is under a strain, nothing can rest them. Anything that rests the mind will benefit the eyes,” says Dr. Bates in his book Better Eyesight Without Glasses. Gaining control of the mind being one of the aims of yoga, it is the key to healing many diseases, including those of the eye.

Keeping this view in mind, Ghantali Mitra Mandal undertook a project to find out if regular yogic practices could prove useful as therapeutic and preventive solutions for CVS.

Aim

The study aimed to find out whether the regular performance of yogic eye practices improved tear break up time and the symptoms of CVS.

Method

A questionnaire was sent to banks, private offices, ultrasonography centres and computer training institutes by the study team. In addition to personal information, it asked details about these factors: nature of work, timing of work, sitting posture in office, visual angle with respect to the computer screen, presence of air conditioning in the office, distance of chair from screen, and use of contact lens or spectacles.

A group of 14 adults was selected randomly for the project. These included 10 males and 4 females in the age group of 20-45. The criteria were that all were professionals working at a computer for at least eight hours or more per day, and suffering from symptoms of CVS. The participants agreed to perform yogic eye practices consistently without breaks to either prove or disprove the aim of the study and consented to undergo ophthalmic check-ups when asked to do so. A control group of 10 was selected using the same criteria, and this group did not participate in the yogic practices.

Each participant and the control group were examined at the beginning of training for optical error and any other related eye problems by two ophthalmologists.

A non-invasive tear break up time test (TBUT test) was carried out on each participant and the control group at the beginning of the project and again at the end. The TBUT test is one of the tests used to test the dryness of the eyes objectively. It is carried out by applying a fluorescent dye to the cornea, and the eyes are kept open and examined using a slit lamp with a cobalt blue filter to test the fluorescence of the tear film. To begin with, there should be a continuous, uniform tear film, and after a few seconds dark spots appear on the tear film, indicating a break in it.

Yogic practices

The yogic practices were conducted for three weeks for about one hour every morning between 6 am and 7.15 am. The sadhana included daily Om trataka, intermittent jyoti trataka, devotional prayers, cleansing practices such as kapalbhati and jala neti, asanas, preparatory eye practices, palming, pranayama, yoga nidra and meditation.

The preparatory eye practices of sideward, diagonal, circular, upward and downwards viewing were performed, and palming was done after each practice. Types of palming included simple palming, palming with pressure, palming with the breath and palming with bhramari pranayama.

After the preparatory eye practices, focusing exercises were performed. These included left and right gazing, upwards and downwards gazing, nosetip gazing and eyebrow centre gazing. Participants were asked to blink frequently and intentionally during the practices to provide a good tear film for healthy eyes. Gazing at distant objects was practised intermittently during the practices to provide relief to eyeball muscles. Splashing the eyes with water was taught and the participants were advised to carry out the practices at their place of work.

The asanas included vajrasana, shashankasana, ushtrasana, pawanmuktasana I and II, marjariasana, utthitadwipadasana, utthan vakrasana, bhujangasana, hastapadasana, and baddhahastasana. The pranayamas that were practised included bhramari, sheetali and sheetkari. Yogic breathing was also practised daily. Palming of the forehead was practised to provide relief to forehead muscles. The participants also took part in singing devotional songs and meditation sessions.

All the yogic practices had a definite purpose. The focusing exercises and trataka improve the ability to make visual adjustments, the accommodation reflex and concentration, and help to stimulate as well as relax the eye muscles. The palming, blinking and splashing exercises relax the eye muscles.

In addition, informative lectures were delivered by two eminent ophthalmologists on the anatomy of the eye, and prevention and treatment of CVS.

Results

All participants of the study group felt extremely good and energetic throughout the day. There was a definite feeling of physical and emotional well-being. There was complete relief in subjective symptoms of headache, backache, irritability, depression, etc. Their capacity to work without becoming exhausted had increased.

Out of 13 participants, the TBUT test results showed an average improvement of 4 seconds (± 2) in the right eye of 10 participants, and an average improvement of 5 seconds (± 2) in the left eye of 10 participants. The control group showed no improvement. This was statistically significant after applying a paired ‘t’ test.

Discussion

The statistically significant paired ‘t’ test result obtained for increased tear break up times of the study group, with no change in the control group, shows that yogic eye practices definitely help in improving the tear film of the eyes, thereby reducing the symptoms arising out of computer use.

The informative lectures helped generate awareness of the working environment, including ergonomics, which also helped to alleviate symptoms. Other treatment modalities such as use of artificial tears, computer glasses, etc. are also being suggested to help overcome CVS.

Conclusion

It would seem then that regular yoga practice is a very good option as a preventative and therapeutic means to overcome CVS. It can be easily learnt, is cost effective, has no negative side effects, will be beneficial for a lifetime and will bring about positive effects on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels. Indeed, “For eye trouble, the remedy is eye drops. For ‘I’ trouble, the remedy is ‘drop I’. And if you want to drop both eye drops and I, adopt yoga!”