How Do You Get Rid of Digital Eye Strain?

Can you remember the last time you went a full day without looking at a screen? From your computer to your cellphone to your tablet or e-reader, chances are your everyday life is propelled by digital devices. In fact, the average American worker spends seven hours a day on the computer—that’s a lot of screen time! If you notice eye strain, eye irritation, blurry vision, dry eyes, or other bothersome symptoms when using a computer or other digital device, you’re not alone. You may have a common eye condition called digital eye strain, which currently affects about 78% of adults across the globe.

What is digital eye strain?

While there are many benefits to life in a digital age, prolonged digital screen viewing can affect your eyes, vision, and overall eye health. Among the vision problems caused by too much screen time is digital eye strain, a very common eye condition which is also known as computer vision syndrome. In fact, it is now estimated that digital eye strain affects 60 million people worldwide, a number that reflects the even more central role of computer and cellphone use during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Computer vision syndrome is a type of eye strain and refers to a group of symptoms you might experience when looking at a screen for too long. These range from eye fatigue and irritation to headaches and neck tension. While digital eye strain won’t seriously harm your eyes, the resultant discomfort and issues with your vision can be disruptive, impacting productivity and well-being at work and at home. 

Read on to learn more about the causes of digital eye strain, as well as treatments and preventative steps you can take to improve your eye health and vision when using a screen.

young woman looking at screen

Symptoms of eye strain due to digital devices

The symptoms of digital eye strain, or computer vision syndrome, are various and may affect your eyes and vision or your physical comfort more broadly. Common symptoms include:

  • Eye strain, irritation, or discomfort
  • Tired eyes
  • Dry eyes
  • Blurred vision after computer use
  • Eye burning sensations
  • Difficulty refocusing eyes from one distance to another
  • Headaches
  • Neck, shoulder, or back tension
  • Sensitivity to bright light

Causes and risk factors of computer vision syndrome

Our eyes must work extra hard when looking at a computer screen or other digital device. This is often due to a lack of contrast on the screen, glare, or reflections, as well as viewing distances and angles that make it challenging for our eyes to track and focus, which impacts eye function. We also blink less frequently when looking at a computer or other screen, which means our eyes are less lubricated. The eye surface can dry out as a result, leading to discomfort and worsening existing conditions like dry eye.

Uncorrected eye conditions and vision problems—even minor eye issues—can also exacerbate digital eye strain symptoms, making regular eye exams even more important. If you have dry eye disease, uncorrected or under-corrected refractive errors, or an eye condition like convergence insufficiency (which affects eye focusing), you are more at risk of developing computer vision syndrome. Even if you already wear glasses or contact lenses, it’s possible that they are not right for the viewing distance and demands of a computer screen. In other words, your regular glasses may not be helping your eyes during screen time and may even be contributing to the problem.

In general, the more you use a computer or look at a screen, the more likely you are to develop digital eye strain. Just two hours working at a computer or using another device can be enough to trigger digital eye strain. However, the eye condition can develop whenever the demands of looking at a screen exceed the abilities of your vision. 

Eye exams near me

How is the condition diagnosed?

Digital eye strain can be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye exam. Your eye care provider will perform a series of tests to check eye health, visual acuity, and eye function, including how your eyes focus, move, and work together. If you need corrective lenses for a refractive error like nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism, your eye doctor can prescribe glasses or contact lenses.

Your eye doctor will also ask you questions about your vision, medical history, and lifestyle. This information can help them determine if underlying health conditions or environmental factors may be contributing to the eye condition.

It’s important to maintain regular eye exams to ensure optimal eye health. However, if you’re experiencing any issues with your vision—or if you notice changes in your vision—don’t wait for your scheduled eye exam. If you’re suffering from the symptoms of digital eye strain, call us right away.

Treatment and prevention 

How do you get rid of digital eye strain? For many people, taking a break from the screen or lessening computer use will do the trick, but this might not be possible for everyone. A lasting cure usually involves working with your eye doctor on a treatment plan, which will likely include lifestyle and habit changes. 

Get your eyes checked regularly

See your eye doctor regularly to ensure any issues with your vision are caught early. Our eyes need consistent care to properly function.

Wear the proper corrective lenses

While using the wrong prescriptive strength in corrective lenses won’t hurt your eyes, it can create strain and make it more likely that you’ll develop computer vision syndrome. That said, while the glasses or contact lenses that your eye doctor prescribes for everyday use may properly correct refractive errors, they may still be insufficient in meeting the demands of computer use. Special glasses with specific designs, strengths, and tints for lenses may be needed for digital tasks. Be sure to talk with your doctor if you’re noticing discomfort when you use your computer, phone, or any other device.

Follow the 20-20-20 eye care rule

Even if computer use is a necessary part of your day-to-day life, following this simple eye care rule can alleviate symptoms associated with extensive screen time and help your eyes feel better. Every 20 minutes, look up from your computer or device and focus on something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. 

Follow best practices for computer users

Correct body and head positioning during computer use can help your eyes work more easily and efficiently, both preventing and relieving symptoms of digital eye strain. Your screen should be about 15-20 inches below eye level and 20-28 inches from your eyes. You can also try tilting your computer about 10 degrees up. Reposition your computer to avoid light from lamps or windows that might create glare, or use an anti-glare screen. Remember to take breaks and remind yourself to blink frequently so your eyes don’t get too dry!

Limit screen time

Even if you’re an office worker and at the computer for much of the day, chances are there are non-computer tasks that still need to be completed. If you’ve been looking at a screen for a long time, try to do other work like making phone calls or copies to give your eyes a break.

Invest in vision therapy

For some people, even glasses with corrective lenses specially designed for computer use won’t address their digital eye strain symptoms. This may be due to underlying issues with eye focusing or coordination. In this case, vision therapy—a program of eye exercises that help train or retrain the learned aspects of vision—can be an important component of digital eye strain treatment.

lady with glasses bathed in blue light

What about blue light?

How blue light affects your vision and eye health

In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion of blue light and its effect on vision. 

Blue light is actually an important kind of light, which helps with memory, alertness, brain function, and mood. In fact, the main source of blue light is the sun—not our computer screens. The amount of blue light that comes from digital devices is small in comparison with the sun, but some research suggests that constant exposure to this type of light can lead to problems with our vision, including age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.

Do blue light glasses help with eye strain?

There is not currently a consensus as to whether blue-light-filtering  glasses help with eye strain. If you’re struggling with digital eye strain, your eye doctor may suggest giving blue light glasses a try. Even though the jury is still out on how exactly this particular type of light affects our eyes, we do know that it can interfere with circadian rhythm and sleep cycle. So if you spend all day on a computer, glasses with a digital lens that minimizes exposure may be beneficial.

happy person browsing phone

The importance of eye health

Clear vision and healthy eyes help us to be more productive and efficient at work and more connected and content at home. The prevalence of digital devices and computer use likely isn’t changing any time soon—it is the reality of the digital age. Taking care of your eyes and vision in an increasingly digital world means staying on the lookout for signs and symptoms of digital eye strain and taking immediate steps to ensure proper eye function, lasting eye health, and healthy, happy living.

Excellent eye care for better living

Vision impacts everything we do. If you’re experiencing discomfort or issues with your vision, whether it’s due to digital eye strain or another eye condition, the disruption can ripple through your day-to-day experience impacting not only your sight but your overall well-being. 

At Beyond Vision Center, we’re committed to providing world-class treatment that addresses your eye needs and goals so that you can focus on whatever matters to you most. If you’re struggling with eye strain, we offer a range of premier services that will provide lasting relief, including comprehensive eye examinations, visual therapy programs, dry eye treatment, and more.

We look forward to seeing you!