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Computer Vision Syndrome & Digital Eye Strain: Everything You Need to Know

Computer vision syndrome (also called digital eye strain) is a frequent eye problem that occurs when a person spends too much uninterrupted time using digital devices. The condition is temporary and easily treated by small lifestyle and environmental changes.

man with computer vision syndrome digital eye strain

Occasionally, digital eye strain persists even after these changes are made. If this happens, you may have an underlying vision problem that is also straining your eyes.

See your eye doctor for diagnosis and treatment to help your computer vision syndrome symptoms improve.

Symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome & Digital Eye Strain

Some symptoms of computer vision syndrome include:

  • Eye pain
  • Eye fatigue
  • Head and neck pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Difficulty keeping your eyes open
  • Headache
  • Sensitivity to light

Causes

Any of the following factors may cause you to develop computer vision syndrome:

  • Using a device for extended periods of time
  • Poor lighting when using a digital device
  • Glare on the device’s screen
  • Poor posture when using the device
  • Using a screen that is too close or too far

Risk Factors for Computer Vision Syndrome & Digital Eye Strain

You are at greater risk of developing computer vision syndrome if you:

  • Spend two or more continuous hours using a computer or other digital device every day
  • Have uncorrected vision problems
  • Do not wear your glasses when using digital devices

Diagnosis

You can usually tell that you are experiencing computer vision syndrome by observing how your symptoms appear and disappear. If they begin after extended screen use and go away once your eyes have had time to rest, they are likely due to computer vision syndrome. 

If you want to confirm this link, you can ask your eye doctor about the problem. They will ask you questions about your computer and digital device use, including how long you use these items each day and what type of environment you are in when you do this.

Your eye doctor will also perform an eye exam that includes a standard vision test. This will detect any undiagnosed refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism) that may be making it more difficult for you to see your computer screen clearly. 

Treatment for CVS & Digital Eye Strain

Computer vision syndrome can be treated using home remedies or professional treatments. 

Home Remedies

To treat computer vision syndrome at home, you can:

  • Limit screen time. The less time you spend looking at a screen, the more time your eyes will have to rest. Switching from one type of screen to another (for example, from your computer to your mobile phone) does not allow your eyes to rest and will not alleviate digital eye strain.
  • Take breaks during screen-related activities. Try not to spend more than two hours at a time in front of a screen. 
  • Use artificial tears. These are special eye drops meant to help lubricate your eyes and prevent dry eyes. 
  • Place a humidifier in your home. A humidifier can moisten the air and help keep your eyes moist too. 

Professional Treatments

If your digital eye strain does not improve, ask your eye doctor about the problem. You may have an underlying vision problem that is causing excessive strain on your eyes. You may need glasses to correct the problem and help reduce the demands on your eyes. 

An eye doctor can also prescribe special glasses to improve the symptoms of computer vision syndrome. These glasses have lenses that make it easier for your eyes to focus on objects that are around one arm’s length away (about where your computer monitor should be). However, they may also make it more difficult for you to see objects that are up close or far away. This makes them impractical for general use, so only wear them when you are at your computer.

Prevention

To best way to prevent computer vision syndrome is to follow a small set of guidelines that are mostly lifestyle and environmental adaptations. They are:

  • Use the 20-20-20 rule. After every 20 minutes of screen time, look at something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. 
  • Place your computer monitor at eye level about an arm’s length away from you. If your chair is adjustable, keep it set at the same height each day.
  • Blink more frequently. The more you blink, the more chances you will have to lubricate your eyes. 
  • Adjust the lighting of your workspace. Use digital devices with a soft light on instead of in total darkness. If you need stronger light to see a book or piece of paper while using the device, place that light behind you and focus it on the item you need to see. 
  • Adjust your screen settings. Set the font size, brightness, and contrast settings to levels that feel comfortable for you. 
  • Wear your glasses. If you wear prescription glasses or contacts, always keep them on while you work. This will make it easier for you to see and reduce any additional strain on your eyes.

Why It Matters

There are no lasting consequences to digital eye strain. The problem should go away as soon as you modify the way you use your devices. However, this does not mean that it is not an important issue.

 Digital eye strain has been shown to cause significantly lower work productivity, costing employers an average of 15 minutes of productive time per workday for each affected employee. It also has a significant impact on sufferers’ quality of life. 

If you are feeling the effects of computer vision syndrome on a regular basis, make treatment a priority. Doing so will improve both your personal and professional life.

FAQs on Computer Vision Syndrome & Digital Eye Strain

How do you treat digital eye strain?

You can treat digital eye strain by making small changes to the way you use devices, including limiting screen time and taking regular breaks. These things reduce the amount of work your eyes have to do and allows them to relax. 

Does digital eye strain go away?

If you take steps to reduce the amount of strain that device use is placing on your eyes, the symptoms of eye strain will go away. If you do not change your habits, you will continue to experience eye strain each time you spend a significant amount of time using digital devices. 

Do digital devices cause eye strain?

Digital devices do not cause eye strain on their own. The amount of uninterrupted time you spend looking at these devices determines whether you will develop this problem. You can use digital devices for the same amount of time without causing eye strain if you take steps to help your eyes rest when needed.

References

  1. Eyestrain. (August 2020). Mayo Clinic.

  2. Computer Vision Syndrome (Digital Eye Strain). (2022). Canadian Association of Optometrists.

  3. Digital eye strain: prevalence, measurement and amelioration. (April 2018). BMJ Open Ophthalmology.

  4. Management of digital eye strain. (May 2018). Clinical and Experimental Optometry.

  5. Eye Strain: How to Prevent Tired Eyes. (February 2020). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  6. Eye Strain. (June 2019). Cleveland Clinic.

  7. Computer vision syndrome. (2022). American Optometric Association.

  8. Eye strain. (April 2020). HealthDirect.

  9. Computer Vision Syndrome. (2021). Cedars-Sinai.

  10. How to Avoid Eye Strain Caused by the Increased Screen Time Amid the COIVD-19 Pandemic. (August 2020). University of Utah Health.

  11. Eye Strain at Work Is Up, Lowering Productivity. (February 2014). Society for Human Resource Management. 

  12. Computer Glasses. (March 2022). Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety.

Last Updated April 9, 2022

Note: This page should not serve as a substitute for professional medical advice from a doctor or specialist. Please review our about page for more information.