Caution key when work becomes a big headache

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 June, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 June, 1998, 12:00am

I have just finished about two-thirds of a long project I was working on that required me to spend at least 12 hours a day at my computer. Since last week, however, I have been unable to spend more than two hours at work because of severe headaches. I know this is related to the time I spend staring at my screen, but I have to get this project finished. Is there anything you can suggest that will help me? ADAM PATTERSON Tai Po You need to be really careful. You could be hurting yourself a lot more than you realise. There are many possible computer-related causes of your condition. A recent paper published by Polaroid - to publicise its anti-glare filters - discusses some of these in great detail.

Glare is a leading problem for computer users. It results not from excessive screen brightness, but from light sources in your work environment being brighter than your screen, making your screen difficult to see and causing eye strain. Since monitor screens are slightly convex, even a light placed at a wide angle from the screen can cause glare. One of the best solutions is to work in a darkened room with a good reading lamp to shine on paper work. Ensure it points away from your monitor.

A dirty screen - dust is attracted to the screen by static electricity - also causes eye strain. Clean your monitor each day with a damp (not soaking) cloth.

Screen flicker, too, can cause strain . . . and really bad headaches. Sometimes the flicker is imperceptible, but still affects your vision. The flicker can be caused by strong magnetic sources near your monitor try placing a cellular phone next to the monitor and ringing it and you will see what I mean - or a plain faulty monitor. If your machine is getting old, have the screen checked.

Another problem is flickering lighting in your work area. Fluorescent lights are the biggest offenders. Their flicker is practically imperceptible, but still harmful. Never work on a computer in the same room as a fluorescent light that is flickering so much it can be noticed. Fix it.

I suggest you make a list of all potential causes and take all measures to fix potential problems. Buy a good screen filter while you are at it. This may seem like a plug, but it isn't . . . Polaroid makes excellent anti-glare filters.

See a doctor about your condition, and if it persists, stay away from your computer for a while, no matter what the cost.