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Digital Eye Strain: Causes and Solutions

Young woman frustrated due to digital eye strain caused by her working on computer for too long

Digital Eye Strain: Causes and Solutions

Many people experience tired and dry eyes after using the computer for long periods. This condition is known as digital eye strain; it can affect your ability to focus, cause headaches and other irritating symptoms. With changes to your computer habits, you can prevent further irritation.

If you experience the effects of digital eye strain, your optometrist can recommend several solutions for your tired eyes. Continue reading to learn more about digital eye strain, including its causes and some potential solutions.

What is Digital Eye Strain? 

According to research from The Vision Council, nearly 60% of Americans experience the symptoms of digital eye strain, including headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and sore neck and shoulders.

The average American worker spends 7 hours a day on their computer. With people relying on technology more and more, it’s no surprise that many Americans experience these annoying symptoms. Digital eye strain, or computer vision syndrome, is a common condition where your eyes become irritated from extended screen usage. It’s essentially tired eyes, also known as eye fatigue.

Focusing on daily tasks can be difficult with irritated and tired eyes. While the symptoms of digital eye strain may be frustrating and uncomfortable, this condition doesn’t have any long-term side effects.

Symptoms of Digital Eye Strain

There are several symptoms related to digital eye strain, including:

  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry eyes
  • Sore neck, shoulders, or back
  • Light sensitivity
  • Watery eyes
  • Difficulty concentrating

    You may feel one or a combination of these symptoms if you experience digital eye strain. This condition’s symptoms mainly happen because of computer usage, but many factors may contribute to digital eye strain.

    What Causes Digital Eye Strain? 

    Some common causes of digital eye strain include:

    • Blinking less when using computers
    • Viewing digital screens from poor distances & angles
    • Using devices with glare or reflection
    • Using devices with poor contrast between text and background

      Several external causes can potentially lead to digital eye strain. These causes include poor posture, circulating air from fans or air conditioning, and the setup of your computer workstation.

      Computer use is usually the culprit for digital eye strain, but this condition’s cause is more complex. Symptoms develop because of the way you use your computer; rather than the computer itself.

      Computers make your eyes work harder. When working at a computer, your eyes must focus and refocus constantly.

      Your eyes complete different actions when using a digital device. They move back and forth to read, shift gaze to look at papers on your desk, and react to changing images on your screen.

      When combining these actions with the contrast, flicker, and glare of a screen, consistent computer work can lead to dry and irritated eyes.

      In some cases, someone may have an undiagnosed vision problem that can cause or worsen the symptoms of digital eye strain. Regardless of the cause of your eye strain, your optometrist can recommend several possible solutions to prevent future irritation.

      Man touching eye due to him suffering from digital eye strain caused by his computer

      Digital Eye Strain Solutions 

      Resting your eyes when they’re tired or irritated can help, but the best solution for digital eye strain is prevention. This can mean making some changes to your computer habits.

      If you’re looking to prevent digital eye strain, try out some of the following preventative measures:

      Take Frequent Breaks

      It can be easy to continue reading or working on your computer for hours, but looking away can give your eyes a break. Try following the 20/20/20 rule; take a 20-second break every 20 minutes to look at something at least 20 feet away.

      Blink More

      It sounds like a simple solution, but remembering to blink can keep your eyes moisturized. People can blink up to 50% less when using digital devices.

      You can keep a visual reminder on your computer, like a sticky note reminding you to blink or use artificial tears to prevent your eyes from becoming dry.

      Sit Appropriately

      The way you sit can make a difference when using your devices. Ensure your chair's height is correct, letting your feet rest on the floor comfortably. Adjust your computer screen slightly downward to reduce potential strain.

      When using your computer, try to sit at least an arm’s length (25 inches) away from the screen to prevent yourself from sitting too close.

      Account for Glare & Brightness

      Glare and brightness can make your eyes have to focus more to read off of your screens. You can reduce incoming glare by positioning your computer screen away from windows and overhead lighting.

      Anti-glare screen filters can help decrease the amount of light reflected from your devices.

      Adjust Your Devices

      Adjusting your devices can help protect your eyes from digital eye strain. You can do this by:

      • Raising the contrast on your screen
      • Making your text larger
      • Changing the brightness of your screen to match your surroundings
      • Raising your device’s refresh rate to cause less screen flickering

        These solutions can help prevent dry and irritated eyes. If you’re still experiencing discomfort despite changing your computer habits, contact your optometrist. They can diagnose any potential underlying problems after completing a comprehensive eye exam.