What is Computer Vision Syndrome?
Computer vision syndrome, or digital eye strain, is a group of very common eye and vision problems caused by prolonged use of computers, tablets, e-readers, and cell phones. The level of discomfort and vision problems seems to increase with the amount of digital screen use. Our screen time has risen in the past few years with the growth of remote work and online learning, so you may not be able to completely avoid digital eye strain, but there are steps you can take to reduce its occurrence and treat the symptoms it causes.
Digital Eye Strain Symptoms
Here are some symptoms that may indicate computer vision syndrome or digital eye strain:
- Sore, tired, burning, or itching eyes
- Watery or dry eyes
- Blurred or double vision
- Sore neck, shoulders, or back
- Increased sensitivity to light, called photophobia
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling that you cannot keep your eyes open
Sometimes these symptoms can indicate an underlying condition, so you should see an eye care provider if traditional prevention and treatments for digital eye strain do not alleviate your symptoms.
Do Screens Damage Your Eyes?
Electronic devices emit high levels of blue light, which is fatiguing to the eyes. Experts do not believe that staring at electronic screens causes permanent eye damage, but digital eye strain can cause discomfort and difficulty seeing properly. To keep your eyes comfortable and your vision at its best, you should take steps to remedy or prevent digital eye strain.
There are steps you can take to protect your eyes from screens. Here’s how to reduce digital eye strain:
- The 20/20/20 rule: Every 20 minutes, shift your eyes to focus on something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This rule helps to decrease accommodative strain (when the small muscles in your eye have to help you focus up close), remind you to blink, and reset your eyes.
- Don’t Forget to Blink: We tend to blink less than usual when focusing on content on screens. Try to make a conscious effort to blink to avoid dryness and allow your eyes to refocus.
- Use Eye Drops: Because you may blink less when you’re looking at screens, eye drops are an effective way to keep your eyes lubricated. Eye drops or artificial tears can be bought over the counter. Some contain preservatives and some are preservative-free, so consult your eye doctor if you are not sure which type of eye drops to use.
- Wear Blue Light Glasses: Blue light glasses block blue light from entering the eyes. Prescription glasses can have a blue blocker anti-reflective coating applied to make them block blue light, or you can get blue light glasses with no prescription.
- Adjust the Distance Between Eyes & Screens: To minimize eye strain, screens should be 20 to 40 inches away from your eyes, which is about an arm’s length.
- Adjust the Lighting: Less light in your room is actually better for your eyes. Close blinds and use lower voltage bulbs so your work environment isn’t too bright. You can also use dark mode and night shift on your electronic devices to decrease the amount of bright and blue light they emit.
- Use High-Resolution Screens: The typical screens you look at today offer refresh rates of 75 Hz or more, and the higher the better. When you can’t see the individual pixels, your eyes don’t have to work as hard to make sense of the images in front of you. Screens will higher resolutions also appear more lifelike.
- Reduce Glare: If possible, using an anti-glare matte screen can help reduce glare and resulting eye strain. Glare stops your eyes from making the adjustments they need for you to be able to focus. Glasses can have an anti-reflective coating applied to help with this as well.
Digital Eye Strain
There are many ways to reduce the risk of computer vision syndrome, including those discussed above. If you need them, you should wear your prescription glasses to protect your eyes from computer screens, as uncorrected refractive errors and astigmatism can increase eye strain. If you have persistent symptoms of digital eye strain, you should consult a trusted eye doctor. The eye doctors at Northeast Ohio Eye Surgeons are well-equipped to treat your symptoms and diagnose any possible underlying conditions. Schedule an appointment today at a NEOES location near you.
References:Sheppard AL, Wolffsohn JS. Digital eye strain: prevalence, measurement and amelioration. BMJ Open Ophthalmol. 2018;3(1):e000146. Published 2018 Apr 16. doi:10.1136/bmjophth-2018-000146