Lerone Clark, BS, MS3, New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine
Is the Screen Blurry? Mitigating Eye Strain for Radiologists
The field of radiology is exciting, complex, and always changing, meaning that radiologists are constantly working to better understand and interpret CTs, MRIs, X-rays and other imaging modalities. With years of training, radiologists develop a good eye for noticing the small details that may guide a patient's diagnosis or treatment. However, what happens when that “good eye” eventually becomes not so good?
The subject of eye and vision dysfunction among radiologists has been a topic of research in several studies. A 2005 study by Talia Vertinsky, MD, investigated the prevalence of eyestrain in radiologists, where eyestrain referred to irritation of the eye, vision changes and other symptoms, such as headache. This study found that the prevalence of eyestrain in a group of 380 surveyed radiologists was 36%.1 Similarly, a 2022 study investigated the prevalence of computer vision syndrome, or CVS, in radiologists and radiology residents. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), computer vision syndrome refers to “a group of eye- and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer, tablet, e-reader and cell phone use.”3 The AOA identifies the most common symptoms to be eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision and dry eyes, as well as neck and shoulder pain. This study demonstrated a 65.4% prevalence of CVS among 416 radiologists and radiology residents.2 It is critical for the modern radiologist to be able to interpret digital images effectively, and some researchers have suggested that CVS and associated eyestrain may impact diagnostic accuracy. In 2009, researchers used visual accommodation speed as a measure of eyestrain and found that visual accommodation in radiologists at both near and far distances was significantly worse after a day of interpreting diagnostic images.4
With these concerns in mind, how can radiologists mitigate, or possibly prevent, eye and vision problems? Many strategies have been described with emphasis placed on taking breaks, optimizing posture and workspace, and keeping up to date with eye care. According to the study mentioned above by Dr. Vertinsky, short breaks, at least once per hour, had a positive impact on eyestrain symptomatology in the study population.2 The AOA also describes two strategies for rest breaks, one being resting the eyes for 15 minutes after two hours of continuous computer use. The other states “for every 20 minutes of computer viewing, look into the distance for 20 seconds to allow the eyes a chance to refocus.”3 Other tips include positioning the computer screen slightly below eye level, resting feet flat on the floor, decreasing glare from surrounding light sources and blinking frequently.
Radiologists make a significant impact in the field of medicine across various subspecialties. In order for radiologists to do their best work, they have to be sure to practice self-care and be mindful of their eye health. Taking the time to optimize their environment and reduce eyestrain will translate into an improved work experience for radiologists and radiology residents, and perhaps better outcomes for patients.
ACR ResourcesDaily Workspace Improvements
- Vertinsky, T., Forster, B. Prevalence of Eye Strain Among Radiologists: Influence of Viewing Variables on Symptoms. American Journal of Roentgenology. 2005; 184(2), 681–686. DOI: 10.2214/ajr.184.2.01840681
- Alhasan, A.S., Aalam, W.A. Magnitude and Determinants of Computer Vision Syndrome Among Radiologists in Saudi Arabia: A National Survey. Academic Radiology. 2022; 29(2), 197–204. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acra.2021.10.023
- American Optometric Association. Computer vision syndrome. Accessed on Feb. 14, 2022, https://www.aoa.org/healthy-eyes/eye-and-vision-conditions/computer-vision-syndrome?sso=y
- Krupinski EA, Berbaum KS. Measurement of Visual Strain in Radiologists. Academic Radiology. 2009; 16(8), 947–950. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acra.2009.02.008