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CAN COMPUTER USE AFFECT YOUR HEALTH?

Published:Tuesday | June 2, 2015 | 6:00 AM

A significant percentage of us use a computer from time to time, some more often than others. Current trends indicate that the need for device mobility is shifting usage more and more to the use of tablets and laptops but a significant number of persons still use the traditional personal computer and for some, especially those who use it for long periods, there may be health implications.

One of the greatest health concerns that persons have regarding computer usage is its effect on the eyes. Fortunately, use of a computer has not been shown to cause any permanent problems with the eye. However, because it forces you to focus on an object a short distance away for a long time it may cause some eye strain. This may result in blurred vision, watery eyes and headache. To minimise this one can consciously blink eyes regularly, focus on other more distant object periodically, keep room air moist (with water or plants), keep top of screen at eye level, take steps to reduce glare and keep the screen clean.

Musculoskeletal complications are probably more likely to occur but less recognised. These include upper limb disorders which can affect the shoulders, arms, hands and fingers. They also include repetitive strain injury (RSI),which causes tenosynovitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. These upper limb disorders result from prolonged incorrect positioning of the limbs, inappropriate furniture and work equipment, prolonged high-speed typing and intensive use of the mouse. They can result in permanent disability without early and/or inadequate intervention. Tenosynovitis can impair the movement of some fingers and carpal tunnel syndrome can cause tingling, numbness and pain in the hands and fingers.

Precautionary measures can be taken to reduce the likelihood of musculoskeletal problems.

(1) Take breaks of a few minutes every hour.

(2) Alternate computer use with other tasks.

(3) Relax your body by regular stretching.

(4) Make use of wrist and foot rests, and document holders when possible.

(5) The keyboard should be detached/able from the computer and should be on the same level as the mouse and your forearms. Your forearms should be kept in a horizontal position.

(6) Minimise use of the mouse and hold it lightly and click it gently.

(7) The chair should have adjustable height and armrests give adequate back support.

A regular laptop is, therefore, not suited for workstation-like usage as it doesn?t fit these criteria.