- Prolonged use of digital screens may cause computer vision syndrome.
- We blink less when using a digital screen.
- Reducing screen time can treat or prevent computer vision syndrome.
If you use a computer often, you’ve likely experienced a type of eye strain called computer vision syndrome.
What is computer vision syndrome?
Computer vision syndrome, also called digital eye strain or computer eye strain, can result in vision and eye problems, including:
- eye strain or fatigue
- blurry or double vision
- dry eyes
- itchy, red, or tearing eyes
- neck or shoulder pain
The condition is caused by prolonged use of digital screens, like computers, tablets, and smartphones.
Your eyes also need to work harder when looking at a digital screen because the texts on digital screens aren’t as sharp as the texts on a printed page.
Your risk for digital eye strain may also increase due to:
- poor lighting
- glare or reflection on a digital screen
- untreated vision issues (like astigmatism)
- wearing the wrong eyeglasses
- incorrect viewing angle or distance
- poor sitting posture
You may experience more severe symptoms if you already have an underlying eye problem.
Tips for preventing digital eye strain
Changing the way you use digital screens may help you reduce or prevent eye strain. Here are some tips:
1. Adjust your computer
Your eyes should be 20 to 28 inches from your digital screen. Position the screen about 4 inches below eye level. Tilt the screen back at about 10 to 20 degrees so you’re not tilting your neck upward or downward to look at it.
You can also adjust the contrast, brightness, and font size of text and images on your device.
2. Blink often
Blinking spreads moisture and mucus across your eyes to prevent them from drying and becoming irritated.
The University of Iowa says your blinking is reduced by 66 percent while on a computer.
Remember to blink often when using a computer or digital device, and to take regular breaks.
3. Reduce screen glare
Screen glare comes from light reflecting off your screen. The light may come from lighting fixtures or windows.
To reduce or eliminate glare, try to:
- close blinds, shades, or curtains
- use light bulbs with lower wattage
- dim overhead lights
- add a screen glare filter to your computer
- use the right eyeglasses
Wearing incorrect prescription eyeglasses can make you more prone to eye strain and headaches. Consider getting prescription eyeglasses for viewing digital screens.
4. Adjust your posture
Bad posture can increase your eyestrain risk. Keep these tips in mind when in front of your computer or other digital screens to maintain good posture:
- Align your ears with your shoulders as you sit up straight.
- Relax your shoulders. Don’t hunch or slouch forward.
- Put your computer screen slightly below eye level.
- Keep your feet flat on the floor when sitting, with your knees at the same level as your hips.
- Use a chair that supports your spine.
5. Take regular breaks
Frequent exposure to digital screens is a major risk factor for computer vision syndrome. Minimize your risk by:
- Following the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- Resting for 15 minutes. Rest your eyes for 15 minutes after every 2 hours of continuous screen use. Focus on objects that are further away than your digital screen.
- Doing non-screen tasks. Try doing non-screen tasks during your 15-minute breaks.
5. Use eye drops
Eye drops help moisturize your eyes. Several types of lubricating eye drops that may reduce dry eye symptoms can be bought over-the-counter (OTC).
When to call a doctor
Computer vision syndrome usually goes away or improves by reducing digital screen time and following the tips above. However, you should call or visit an eye doctor if your symptoms persist or get worse, or if you have:
- sudden vision changes
- eye flashes
- persistent unexplained eye pain or redness
- dry eyes that can’t be treated with eye drops
These symptoms may indicate some other underlying vision issue or health condition. If you have computer vision syndrome, you may need prescription eyeglasses fit for computer use, visual training or therapy, or prescription eye drops.