Was my sight damaged by computers?

DEAR DOCTOR: Was my sight damaged by computers?

If the damage was precipitated by the computer, can it be reversed? And does using a smartphone frequently have the same effect?

Dr Flo,

Can having a desk job where you work on the computer from morning to evening cause your eyesight to deteriorate?

My eyes used to be very sharp and I could see things that were far clearly, even when other people couldn’t see them. I could see shapes of objects in the dark too.

Then I started working at a desk job in front of a computer for most of the day, with little or no screen breaks, and now seven years later, my eyesight is not what it used to be.

If I’m looking at someone who is standing a bit of a distance away from me, I can’t figure out who they are unless I move closer to them.

The same applies to objects. I have dust and cold allergies and my eyes are sensitive to bright light. My mum is shortsighted, so I am not sure if the degeneration of my eyesight is linked to computer use or whether it is hereditary or both.

If the damage was precipitated by the computer, can it be reversed? And does using a smartphone frequently have the same effect?

If I’m not staring at a computer, I am usually on my phone, which means that I am always staring at a screen at any given time. Please advise me.



Dear Alex,

What you are experiencing is called computer vision syndrome or digital eye strain. Figures on a screen are usually not very well-defined, the contrast with the screen background is reduced and the glare of the screen plus reflections, all make your eye muscles work harder when looking at screens. Also, the distance from the screen and the angles used can compound the problem. In addition, a lot of screen time can cause the eyes to become dry.

Anyone who spends two hours or more in front of a screen per day can develop computer vision syndrome. Any other eye problems like short-sightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism will seem worse when a person spends too much time in front of a screen. Even people with glasses or contact lenses can have problems with computers and other screens.

The symptoms include headaches, straining of the eyes, blurred vision, dry eyes with a feeling of having something in the eye, and neck and shoulder pain from poor seating posture. In many people, the symptoms reduce after they stop using screens for a long time. In a few people, however, the problems may remain.

To correct the problem, you may need glasses or contact lenses which are specifically made for computer use, visual training exercises and proper computer viewing. The middle of the computer screen should be about 20 degrees below your eye level, and 40 to 75 centimetres away from you. The computer should be placed in a position to avoid glare from overhead lights and windows, and if possible, use antiglare screens. After every 20 minutes of screen use, look into the distance for about 20 seconds to allow your eyes to refocus. Take a break from the screen after two hours of continuous use. Also, blink frequently to prevent your eyes from drying out and keep yourself well hydrated. Every so often, spend time outside, because natural light relaxes the eyes.

You can also visit an optometrist to have your eyes checked to see if there are any other vision problems like shortsightedness, which sometimes can be passed on genetically. It is advisable to have your eyes checked once every year.


Dr Flo,

I have been trying to get pregnant with no success.

I have always had problems with my periods to the extent of requiring blood transfusions after losing a lot of blood.

My periods are also irregular and I can go for three months without them. Is there anything I can do to help me get pregnant?



Dear Julie,

The menstrual irregularities point to a problem with your reproductive hormones. Most likely, you do not ovulate (release an egg from your ovaries) each month, which is why on some months you do not get your periods, and sometimes when you get them, they are too heavy. This could be due to a problem with your ovaries e.g. polycystic ovarian syndrome, or it could be due to other hormonal disorders like thyroid disease or pituitary gland problems.

You need to visit a gynaecologist so that the exact cause of your hormonal irregularities can be established. From there, the underlying cause can be dealt with, if possible. You can also be put on medication to help you ovulate regularly and you will be put on a schedule to help you conceive. If this fails after several attempts, you may opt for more sophisticated methods of assisted reproduction, under your doctor’s advice. Your partner should also be checked, because you might assume that you alone have a problem, while it could be both of you.


Dr Flo,

I am in my late twenties and of late when I have sexual intercourse, I occasionally see some blood in my sperm.

What’s causing this?



Dear Omollo,

Blood in semen is called hematospermia. In many cases, it has no identifiable cause, and it goes away on its own without treatment.

In a few people, it may be due to a specific cause e.g. infections in the reproductive system, inflammation of the prostate or any other part of the reproductive system, stones (like kidney stones) in the prostate or in the seminal vesicles, obstruction of the tubes in the reproductive system, growths or tumours in the reproductive system and even cancer. If you have had any procedures or surgeries done e.g. prostate biopsy, prostate surgery or vasectomy, that can also cause hematospermia. Excessive sexual activity can also cause the bleeding.

It would be advisable to visit a doctor so that several tests can be done including a urine examination, sexually transmitted infections screening, and ultrasound scan or CT scan, if necessary, and analysis of the semen. Depending on what is found in the tests, you may be put on antibiotics, or other appropriate treatment.