Computer-induced medical problems

Computer-induced medical problems can be described as an umbrella term for the various problems a computer user can develop from prolonged and incorrect computer use. The medical problems that can arise from using computers can be generally defined as the many medical conditions a computer user may experience from using computers extensively over a prolonged period of time in an inefficient manner. The inefficiency being that the computer user may have poor etiquette when using peripherals for example incorrect posture when using a peripheral and when exposed to a situation of bad posture over an extensive period of time problems such as bad posture can occur.

Contents

Overview

In today’s world using computers is a necessity for the majority of people but not many people actually consider the medical consequences that working with computers can cause, such as damaged eyesight, bad posture, arthritis in fingers and computer stress injuries that can be caused by sitting in one position for a prolonged period of time. The above problems are more commonly associated with old age but due to many factors such as poor component design, proximity of the user to the screen and an excess of consecutive working hours mean that the above problems can feature in both young and old computer users. This is an extremely important issue as computers become more important in every corner of employment the medical effects caused by them will elevate unless sufficient research is performed and time is dedicated into eliminating and reducing these problems as much as possible. It is estimated that today at least 75% of all jobs involve some level of computer use; this means three-quarters of the workforce are being exposed to numerous health problems, the same can be said of students and educators who do not go through any day without needing access to a computer for academic work. The figure for people working with and using computers recreationally is to increase considerably in the coming years so it is crucially important that these problems are identified and resolved sooner rather than later in an effort to reduce if not eradicate these problems.

Common Computer-Induced Medical Problems

There are three main notable medical problems that can arise from using computers [1]. They are Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Computer Vision Syndrome and Musculoskeletal problems.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The biggest medical problem associated with Computer-related work is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). CTS is a stress-related injury caused by repetitive movement of joints, especially the wrist, and can lead to numerous musculoskeletal problems. It has become very common among Computer professionals due to poorly placed computer components and extensive typing over a long period of time. Studies conducted show that one in eight computer professionals suffer from CTS. [2] This study was conducted over 21 companies and the majority of sufferers said that they experienced acute and in some cases severe pain due to CTS. The main cause of CTS seems to be debatable, however, with many sources saying that the syndrome is predominantly caused by the acute positioning of the wrist while typing and this problem is exacerbated by the need for the user to be crouching towards the screen while typing. Different research conducted cites the mouse as being the main cause of CTS [2] as it was found that among the fingers the right thumb was revealed to be more susceptible to CTS due to the acute position of the thumb while using the mouse. CTS, although prevalent, seems to be very difficult to ameliorate or cure due to the consistency in the design of computer components such as the mouse and the keyboard, but some companies are leading the way with technologies such as touch screen monitors which will reduce stress on the hand and wrist. Employers in major companies are also taking measures to ameliorate CTS by implementing frequent work breaks and work rotation procedures to ensure that employees aren’t working on a single computer for hours on end “a higher level of intensity of computer work results in higher risk for CTS” [3] which causes severe stress on the joints and thus can lead to CTS

Cumulative trauma disorders are caused by “people who sit at PC workstations or visual display terminals in fast-paced, repetitive keystroke jobs. Their fingers, wrists, arms, necks, and back may become so weak and painful that they cannot work,” (O’Brien & Marakas, 2007, p.553). Many people do not think about this when they look at their computer while using it. It is important to note that everything down to the keyboard has a design process behind it focusing on user interface.

O’Brien, J. & Marakas, G. (2011).Management Information System, 10e. New York, NY. McGraw-Hill Irwin.

Computer Vision Syndrome

In many cases, frequent computer users suffer from Computer Vision Syndrome, which is a degenerative eye problem which can result in severely reduced eyesight (Myopia), blurred vision, overall eye tiredness and even Glaucoma. Computer Eye Syndrome is an umbrella term for many problems but the causes of these problems can be easily identified. When using a computer due to the size and setup of the monitor and components it is necessary for the user to be within at least two feet of the monitor when performing any type of computational work. This presents many problems especially in older monitors due to an elevated amount of monitor glare, poor display quality and insufficient picture display refresh rates. Although these problems are more evident in older computers the newer models are not free from these problems either. Studies have been conducted [4] into the correlation between computers and eye problems and it was found that the Ionizing radiation given off by monitors has severe detrimental effects on the eye and eyesight on a whole. They also state “Treatment requires a multidirectional approach combining ocular therapy with adjustment of the workstation”[4] which shows these problems are quite easily solved with minimal investment from computer manufacturers through producing higher quality monitors with better resolution and refresh rates. The most common form of Computer Vision Syndrome is a condition termed Dry Eye, which results in itchy, sore and even the illusion that something is stuck in your eye. This condition is often caused by extensively long period looking at a computer screen


Video screens have a design process for user interface. Video screens can cause eyestrain from prolonged viewing. Cathode ray tubes are what are used to display the information on your computer. These send off radiation. This is a concern that has been taken into account when designing better computer screens for user interface, (O’Brien & Marakas, 2007, p.553).

O’Brien, J. & Marakas, G. (2011).Management Information System, 10e. New York, NY. McGraw-Hill Irwin.

Musculoskeletal problems

Another medical issue caused by the use of computers is back and posture problems. These problems relate to musculoskeletal disorders caused by the need for the user to be crouched and hunched towards the monitors and computer components due to the design and positioning of these particular computer peripherals. This hunching forward of the user causes posture and back problems but is also the cause of severe and acute pain in the upper back, particularly pain in the neck and or shoulders. A study [5] was conducted where 2146 technical assistants installed a computer program to monitor the musculoskeletal pain they suffered and answered questionnaires on the location and severity of the pain. The study showed interesting results, as it detailed how in the majority of cases any pain suffered was aggravated and exacerbated by the use of computer peripherals like the mouse and keyboard but overall the pain did not originate from using computers. “Moreover, there seems to be no relationship between computer use and prolonged and chronic neck and shoulder pain” [5] This is a positive study for computer manufacturers but although the pain may not originate from computer peripherals there is no doubt that the pain is exacerbated by their use and this revelation alone should lead computer manufacturers to pioneer new technologies that reduce the risk of posture or musculoskeletal problems aggravated by the use of poorly designed and linearly designed computer peripherals.

Possible Ameliorations

Overall it is clear to see that there are many medical problems that can arise from using computers and damaged eyesight, CTS and musculoskeletal problems are only the tip of the iceberg. But it is also important to note that changes are currently being made to ensure that all these problems are ameliorated to the best standard that employers and computer users currently have the technology to implement. By taking measures like ensuring our computer peripherals are situated to ensure maximum comfort while working and taking frequent breaks from computational work can go a long way to ensuring that many medical conditions arising from computers are avoided. These are small measures but they go a long way to ensuring that computer users maintain their health, As with many modern and marvellous technologies in the world today there is always a downside and the major downside of computers is the medical problems that can arise from their prolonged use. Thus it is the duty of computer users and employers everywhere to ensure that the downside is kept to a minimum.

See also

References

  1. ^ "Top 4 Health Problems Caused By Computer Use". Alex from heheli.com. http://heheli.com/business/top-4-health-problems-caused-by-computer-use/. 
  2. ^ a b "Computer Use and Carpal tunnel Syndrome". Department of Occupational Medicine, Herning Hospital, Herning, Denmark (Drs Andersen and Overgaard and Ms Vilstrup); Department of Occupational Medicine, Copenhagen University Hospital, Glostrup, Denmark (Drs Thomsen, Lassen, Kryger, and Mikkelsen); and Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Odense University Hospital, Odense, Denmark (Dr Brandt) Vol. 289, No. 22, Full article.. http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/289/22/2963. 
  3. ^ "Computer Professionals and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)". The Department of Community Medicine, Sri Ramachandra medical college and research institute, Porur, Chennai(Madras), India. K. Mohamed Ali. B.W.C Sathiyasekaran. C. (2006) Vol. 12, No. 3, 319-325. http://www.ciop.pl/18291. 
  4. ^ a b "Computer Vision Syndrome: A Review". 1. Clayton Blehm, MD, Seema Vishnu, MD, FRCS, Ashbala Khattak, MD, Shrabanee Mitra, MD, Richard W. Yee, C.(May 2005) Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Houston Texas. Volume 50, Issue 3, Pages 253-262. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6TCC-4G12924-3&_user=103680&_coverDate=06%2F30%2F2005&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_origin=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_acct=C000007922&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=103680&md5=93e3cf3bdc4bfb9197d8142db6c21aa4&searchtype=a. 
  5. ^ a b "Computer mouse use predicts acute pain but not prolonged or chronic pain in the neck and shoulder". J H Andersen, M Harhoff, S Grimstrup, I Vilstrup, C F Lassen, L P A Brandt, A I Kryger, E Overgaard, K D Hansen, S Mikkelsen, Johan Hviid Andersen, Department of Occupational Medicine, Herning Hospital, 7400 Herning, Denmark Vol. 65, Pages 126 – 131. http://oem.bmj.com/content/65/2/126.full. 

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