Computer Vision Syndrome (Digital Eye Strain)

Last Updated: May 22, 2021

With so many of us spending time in front of digital devices every day, it’s no surprise that research is showing a rise in the detection of visual problems. Having uncorrected hyperopia or myopia ,astigmatism or presbyopia can all make computer use less comfortable and efficient. Depending on your condition, your eyes could be exerting extra effort or be forced to work harder to maintain a clear image when viewing the screen. Even people with perfect vision may experience symptoms such as blurred vision, eyestrain and headaches with prolonged computer use.

To ensure comfortable and efficient computer usage, visit your doctor of optometry for a thorough eye health exam. To help improve your computing experience, your optometrist will need to know:

  • How many hours a day you use a computer
  • The distance from your eyes to your screen
  • The overall set up of your workstation, your main work tasks and if you have multiple screens
  • The type and location of lighting in your computer area

This will help your doctor of optometry discover if you suffer from Computer Vision Syndrome, or if your ocular discomfort is the result of a more serious vision or health problem.

To help reduce the risk of digital eye strain, consider the following tips:

  • Position your screen about an arm’s length from your eyes and 20 degrees below eye level.
  • Set colour and contrast tones to suit your eyes, and match the brightness of your screen with your surroundings.
  • Minimize reflected glare on your screen by dimming the lights in the room if possible and consider using a protective anti-glare screen cover. Also consider positioning your screen so that it sits perpendicular to windows and other bright light sources. If you are having trouble locating the source of the glare, turn off your monitor to reveal a darkened screen, and tilt/swivel your monitor until the reflection disappears.
  • Keep your screen free of fingerprints and dust, as both can reduce visual clarity.
  • If you alternate between looking at your screen and paperwork, consider obtaining a clipboard that attaches alongside your monitor so that the two are at the same working distance.
  • Some optometrists reccomend the use of the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes take a 20 second break and focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet away (the water cooler, possibly?). This is intended to give your eyes a much-needed break.

Remember to blink! Did you know that on average we blink 12 times per minute, but when we’re on the computer, we only blink 5 times per minute? That can add up to dry eyes. Relieve the discomfort by using artificial tears (eye drops) or gels and remembering to blink. Consult your optometrist to determine which eye drops are best for you.
Ask for anti-reflective coatings on the lenses of your glasses, which can be applied at the time of manufacturing, to protect your eyes from bright and/or flickering light sources such as fluorescent lights.
Ask for lenses designed to reduce focusing effort while looking at computer screens. Many lens manufacturers now have prescription lenses that reduce the amount of focusing effort that the eyes must exert. These lenses are optimized for a computer screen distance and tend to maximize the field of view which is important as many people now have wider or even multiple monitors.

While symptoms like headaches, eye strain, blurred vision, eye irritation, double vision, excessive tearing or dry eyes, eye pain or excessive blinking are all common effects of Computer Vision Syndrome, any time you experience these symptoms, you should visit your doctor of optometry for a comprehensive eye examination.