Everything you need to know about digital eye strain

Everything you need to know about digital eye strain

Many modern jobs demand that employees sit at their computer all day. Combine this sedentary type of work with a general increase in digital device usage, and you can see how this modern-day condition came to be. Digital eye strain is common, but it is manageable.

What is digital eye strain?

Reading a book is very different from reading a computer (or other) screen. A book is static, there’s no light behind the pages, and provided you are in a well-lit room, the lighting isn’t changing. When you read a computer screen, your eyes have to constantly adjust to accommodate the changing pixels when you scroll, watch a video, type, and perform other tasks.

Many people are using digital devices during the majority of their day, whether it’s at work or home, watching TV, or using a tablet or phone. Our eyes need to work harder when we use digital devices and prolonged use is contributing to what we now call digital eye strain.

As many as 90 percent of digital device users experience symptoms of this condition, also sometimes referred to as “computer vision syndrome”, “computer-related eye fatigue”, or simply “visual fatigue”.

Symptoms can sometimes be exacerbated if you have uncorrected vision problems like myopia (nearsightedness).

What are the symptoms of digital eye strain?

People can experience a variety of symptoms. For example, on average, we blink 15 times each minute, but when we look at computers, that drops to five to eight times a minute. Because of that, our eyes are less lubricated by their natural oils and tears, causing dryness and blurry vision.

Furthermore, digital eye strain frequently causes headaches, eye irritation, double vision, excessive tearing, eye pain, and neck and shoulder pain.

While digital eye strain itself does not typically lead to any more serious conditions, if you do not address the symptoms, it can lead to complications. For example, if left untreated, dry eyes can lead to eye inflammation, corneal abrasion and/or ulcers, and other vision problems.

It’s also important that you get a proper diagnosis from an eye doctor, in order to make sure that what you are experiencing is indeed digital eye strain and nothing more serious. This will also allow you to have a discussion on how to properly treat the symptoms you are experiencing.

Can you cure digital eye strain?

In short, there is no “cure” per se, unless you suddenly cease or drastically reduce your use of digital devices. However, there are ways to manage the symptoms.

Although it was previously thought that blue light (found in high amounts in digital screens) contributed to digital eye strain, a study that used blue blocking filters vs neutral density filters showed that the blue blocking filters did not alleviate users’ symptoms. The authors think it’s because blue light itself doesn’t cause the strain in the first place, and other measures (ergonomics, taking breaks, etc.) should be used to manage symptoms instead of blue light filtering glasses or other devices.

You might have seen apps like this Chrome extension, that help remind you of the 20‑20‑20 rule.

Every 20 minutes, you should look at something 20 feet away, for 20 seconds.

These apps can be helpful (just like setting a timer) to remind you to take a break, blink, and relax your eyes. You may also wish to try artificial tears if your eyes are constantly dry.

It could also be helpful to implement some basic office ergonomics at your workstation. For example, make sure your computer screen is at arm’s length away from you, with the middle of your screen being 20 degrees below eye level. This might mean you need to adjust your chair or desk height.

Lastly, if you wear contact lenses, you may notice discomfort if you work at a computer all day. Soft contacts are made up of 50 percent water, so if there’s a lot of evaporation from not blinking during the day, your lenses may become uncomfortable. So while they are not a risk factor for digital eye strain, contact lenses might make your symptoms worse.


Looking to get rid of your contacts altogether or need to address an uncorrected vision problem? Come see us for a free, no-obligation consultation to see how laser vision correction can help!