Digital Eye Strain

There is no evidence that your computer screen, tablet, smart phone or other digital devices are harmful to the eyes. Nevertheless, as more and more of us are using these devices for longer periods of time, we find more people experiencing blurry vision, fatigue or eye strain.

Symptoms of computer eye fatigue include:

  • Blurring of print on the screen
  • Burning/dryness/tearing
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty focusing when looking away from the screen
  • Eyestrain or "tired eyes"

The following ten recommendations can minimize eye fatigue related to heavy use of digital devices:

  1. Have a complete eye examination – assure that your vision is properly corrected
  2. Wear your best prescription – Even those of us with slight prescriptions that are not worn experience added strain because it takes extra effort to maintain focus
  3. Special computer glasses – these can be prescribed to ease the strain of focusing at the computer distance and may be made in forms described below
    • Bifocals and computers don't always go together
      • Single vision lenses prescribed specifically for your working distance
      • Specially designed bifocals, top part for the computer and the lower part for reading written text
    • Computer­-specific trifocals that have a very large mid­range segment
    • Special progressive lenses
    • Custom designs based on your unique needs
  4. Use Proper Lighting– uniform ambient light and windows on the side (not in front of or behind)
  5. Minimize Glare – anti-glare screens for the monitor or anti-reflective coating on your glasses
  6. Upgrade your screen – new flat-panel LCD screens have higher resolution
  7. Adjust monitor display settings – brightness, contrast, text size and color temperature (lower the blue light emitted)
  8. Use lubricating eye drops
    • Use just prior to starting computer use and every 2-3 hours if viewing all day
    • Blink more often
    • Also, because of dryness, It may be better to use glasses than contact lenses for long periods of computer use
  9. Take more “vision breaks” – Use the 20-20-20 rule:
    It is very helpful to take a 2-3 minute break from the screen every 20 minutes. During these breaks, focus on something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
  10. Modify your workstation
    • Your screen should be 20-24” from your eyes and 10-15 degrees below your eyes.
    • Combine this with a chair that allows for comfortable posture
    • If a document holder is used, it should be at the same height as the monitor

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Reviewed by Michael J. Lipson, OD