Ask: Do CRT monitors cause headaches?


I posted this on slashdot.org two weeks ago, but the story got rejected. I am posting it here.

I have myopia (medium to high myopia). I wear corrective lenses (in the form of glasses) with negative six optical power, both eyes. The optical power had gradually been decreasing, but since over two years now, it has stabilised at negative six. I use computers a lot on a daily basis. For the past three years, I have been working entirely with laptops and LCDs. I still do, at home, where I have a wide-screen laptop I use. However, almost eight months back, I joined a software house in the capacity of a software engineer. Unfortunately, they only have CRT monitors (13-inch or less) there. I am not used to working with CRT monitors. And in fact, I cannot work with them without having a cracking headache, eye-ache, and without shedding tears. This is the major reason why I flushed out all monitors at home three years ago.

In the last few months working with CRTs at this organisation, I have been feeling the brunt of it extensively. I have headache (at times severe) and eye-ache almost every day I am at work. If I stay back at home, and use my laptop all day long, for hours at ends, I feel nothing. However, as soon as I have spent a good half an hour or even less in front of a CRT at work, the problems start to appear. I have been trying to narrow down to those factors that may actually contribute to the headaches and eye-aches. Traveling to and fro work (I drive to work in my car) might be one factor, as I have to fight my way through rough traffic every day. But, besides that, I could pin down no other factor. The office environment is a long shot from being a haven, but it is not by any stretch of imagination what I would call uncomfortable. I discussed my concerns with friends and other people, and while none of them have medium to high level myopia like myself, they do agree that using CRTs does cause headaches. I raised the issue finally with my manager. He forwarded it to the HR head who called me for a chat. Surprisingly, to him, my not being able to work with CRTs is something he had not heard of ever before. He asked me to get an eye test with my ophthalmologist, and get a letter written from him that suggests I cannot work with CRT monitors. I thought that that was the height of stupidity. But since I already have a much better job offer waiting for me, I did not think it worth protesting. (However, I do wish that they may solve the problems I am having, as I would prefer to stay back with this organisation.)

Yesterday, however, I did visit the ophthalmologist for a routine check-up. The diopters of my corrective lenses remain the same, negative six that is. I do have allergy in my eyes, which I have had for a while, and for which I have been taking treatment on and off. The ophthalmologist did agree with my reservations with working with CRT, but he politely refused to write such a letter, stating that he cannot do so. He asked me instead to fight the battle with the administration of where I work, stating that I do not need to show them any certificates or letters for something I am not comfortable with at work. I will confront the administration, nonetheless, later today. But I wanted to know what you guys think about it. Have you ever had problems with working with CRTs? Especially those of you who may have myopia to any degree and have to work with computers for long hours daily?

22 thoughts on “Ask: Do CRT monitors cause headaches?

  1. Pingback: Ask: Do CRT monitors cause headaches? | Tea Break

  2. A couple of weeks back I started using a CRT after two years. I have perfect vision, however, CRT does seem to take its toll on my eyes. I am used to wide-screen LCDs myself but those are still considered a luxury, at least, in our work environment.

    You thinking of changing jobs then? How about you put having an LCD on your desk in your contract ;)

  3. Its so sad when these companies spend thousands of dollars on one “company executive party” (which by the way has to happen after every major sale) and lots of money on annual dinners where no one questions the sheer waste of money. With a company size of yours all CRTs could be replaced easily within 2 party budgets and Im pretty sure if they do a voting majority of the employees would sacrifice one picnic party in return of a replaced LCD. But again, who cares.

    Companies that dont treat their (good) employees as their assets dont survive (or do good) for long.

    I wish you good luck with your new career and I feel sorry for your company for losing an employee like you (that too for a really stupid reason)

  4. Munir You should support the HR guy! (Memon) ;)

    Though a better solution would rather be to switch your CRT to 440v rather then 220v (Standard in pak) before starting it Do it while leaving the office on the Next day ! Be calm make sure 1 or 2 employee is seeing you while you open up your PC and as soon as u open it up ! KaboOOOOM! gaya! Phir they have to do some thing for you!

    Wise Suggestion isnt it ;)

    Azeem.

  5. My vision is -7.25. I haven’t used CRT’s for about 2 years now but they never caused me any problem till I didn’t switch to CRT’s and LCD’s. I used to work 18 hours on average; sometimes stretching to 36 hours straight.

    However, now I can’t stand CRT’s either.

  6. Hey, i have a complicated set of eyes with myopia in one eye and farsightnedness in the others. I use a CRT at work and laptop at home and I dont have any issues. I also fight traffic on a regular basis and have about a 10-12 hour work days, and usage of computers during the day is about 16-18 hours coz I freelance also. I have had no issues so far. You’ll have to get used to CRTs again. They are not too good for your eyes, but if the refresh rate is fast, then they are workable. Maybe you could talk your HR folks to get people, those flat screens which are a rage these days…

    http://www.linuxquestions.org/questions/general-10/crt-monitors-bad-for-eyes-142656/

  7. Hi, EnJay, thanks for dropping by.

    If the CRT and the traffic don’t get to you, I envy you.

    In my case, as I have found out without a shadow of a doubt, the traffic, the CRT, along with some other factors were indeed what had been causing me headaches, everyday stress, and frustration.

    No, I am not getting used to CRTs. :) The one at office had refresh rates that didn’t spill over 60 Hz. So you may well imagine what my eyes and mind had to go through.

    It is interesting you posted a link from linuxquestions.org. Thanks.

  8. Pingback: So, yes, I still haven’t quite got over it! « Libel

  9. Nice post Ayaz. I hav been having constant headache with occasional dizziness and burning eyes for the last 3 weeks and just today I realized it’s possibly because of the CRT i use at home…time to get rid of it i guess :)

  10. Thanks for the comment, Fariha. There is no doubt that a CRT monitor takes it toll on the eyes. However, I’m inclined to believe that there may be other smaller factors that might converge to intensify the affect of the CRT on the eyes, so you may feel more sensitive to it at one time than another.

    With that said, it is only wise to get an LCD if you can afford one.

  11. hello Ayaz,

    Like you I have myopia (and thanks to my roaring fifties a coming I now
    also have tired eyes ;-).
    Like you I’m a kind of a geek, it’s about to be my 27th year of using a
    CRT for IT (I was one of the first in my country to trade the paper tty
    for a CRT :-)
    And, like you I’ve had headaches, sore eyes, dry eyes, say a word and
    I probably’ve had it ;D) The worse symptom was certainly the fear of open
    spaces but that one is not directly related to CRTs but globally to
    watch any type of screen too long without any pause to look at
    many different distances from your chair.
    Anyway, as for CRTs I can certify that the quality of life for my eyes
    was greatly enhanced by the use of TFTs, I only wish I’ve had been as
    sensible for my wrists ,-(

  12. Many thanks for the comments, Loki (charming as ever ;).

    It is easier to be ignorant of or to overlook the long-term harmful effects of using a computer for long periods on a daily basis without taking the established precautions. I already have a bit of dead skin accumulating at the end of the wrist of the hand I use to control the mouse. I do take precautions from time to time, as I do against staring at a computer screen for long periods, but sometimes, it is just too difficult to not be lazy. :)

  13. I have Myopia too and I am also a computer programmer, spending all of my waking-life in front of computers. Never used an LCD but without going into traffic, without talking for longer hours on the phone or without even doing anything else: using a CRT for whole day makes me as if my eyes are swollen, I get an intense ache in both head and eyes and it won’t go for hours. I am buying a new LCD. I am saving the money from last 9 months for the LCD, lets see what this LCD experience have to say.

    2nd, make sure the light comes from behind the monitor, not from front, it will kill your eyes much more whether using LCD or CRT.

  14. I have had headaches, lighthead for six years. Never had more than approx 5 headaches in my life until the last five years. It had to do with too much TV, computer monitors, office fluorescent lights, Street lights at night, and certain light from autos. I can not watch TV or look at a computer screen (CRT, LCD, ETc.) it has to do with the hrz not with the screen flash rate. I take Elavil and it help alot. i have gone to 50 doctors and they do not know what causes it. If any one has the same problem let me know.
    Thanks,

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