In the digital age, our eyes are constantly glued to screens, from computers to smartphones. But have you ever wondered about the impact of prolonged screen time on your eyes? Welcome to the comprehensive overview of computer vision syndrome and digital eye strain, where we’ll dive into the causes, symptoms, and potential solutions to protect your precious vision. Get ready to uncover eye-opening insights and strategies for maintaining your eye health in the era of screens.

Key Takeaways

  • Digital eye strain is caused by extended use of digital screens and can lead to a range of symptoms.
  • Proper diagnosis, environmental and visual demands assessment, lifestyle changes, medical interventions, ergonomics adjustments are necessary for treating and preventing the condition.
  • Eye care professionals play an essential role in addressing digital eye strain among children and adolescents.

Understanding Digital Eye Strain

A person looking at a computer screen with a strained expression

It’s no secret that our lives revolve around digital devices. In fact, the average American worker spends seven hours a day on computer screens and other digital screens like tablets, smartphones, and even the occasional digital screen, contributing to their overall digital screen time. This constant exposure to screens can lead to a condition called computer vision syndrome or digital eye strain, a collection of ocular and visual issues resulting from prolonged exposure to digital displays.

Digital eye strain can be attributed to a variety of factors, including lighting conditions, chair comfort, screen position, and frequency of breaks from screens.

Definition and Causes

Digital eye strain encompasses visual and ocular symptoms that result from extended use of digital screens like computers, tablets, and smartphones. The causes of this discomfort include uncorrected vision impediments and inadequate screen quality. The potential increased risk of digital eye strain for individuals with pre-existing binocular vision dysfunction, dry eyes, and related anomalies is still not fully understood.

Problems may arise from the near reflex triad, which consists of accommodation, convergence, and pupillary constriction. Issues stemming from any of the components of the near reflex triad may cause difficulty or strain during near work and may exacerbate computer vision syndrome.

The extraocular mechanism, the accommodative mechanism, and the ocular surface mechanism are three potential mechanisms that result in the symptoms of computer vision syndrome.

Prevalence and Risk Factors

As the use of digital devices continues to rise, so does the prevalence of digital eye strain. Digital eye strain is a real risk. Its main risk factors are:

  • Excessive daily usage of digital devices – more than 4 hours per day
  • Underlying refractive errors
  • Female gender
  • Prior dry eyes

Studies have demonstrated a clear connection between computer usage and symptom score. The higher the number of hours spent in front of the computer, the higher the symptom score reported.

A cross-sectional study produced intriguing results. It found that 65% of contact lens users suffered from computer vision syndrome, whereas this figure was 50% for those who did not wear contacts. Concurrently using two or more devices has been found to increase the risk of computer vision syndrome compared to using one device at a time. To better understand your risk, consider taking a computer vision syndrome questionnaire.

These findings underscore the need to comprehend the risk factors of digital eye strain and to take suitable preventative actions.

Symptoms and Effects

Digital eye strain can manifest in a variety of ocular and non-ocular symptoms. A staggering 59% of those who routinely use computers and digital devices experience symptoms of digital eye strain. The most frequent symptoms related to digital eye strain include eye discomfort, headaches, and musculoskeletal issues.

Effectively addressing and preventing digital eye strain requires identification of these symptoms and their causes.

Ocular Symptoms

Ocular symptoms associated with digital eye strain include dryness, irritation, and blurred vision. These symptoms are often caused by the accommodation mechanisms in our eyes, which can lead to blurred vision, double vision, presbyopia, myopia, and slowness of focus change.

Eye exercises such as blinking frequently during breaks can help diminish the possibility of computer-related dry eye. In some cases, accommodative spasm, a condition where the eyes’ focusing ability “locks up” after prolonged computer work, can occur.

Non-Ocular Symptoms

In addition to eye-related symptoms, digital eye strain can also cause non-ocular symptoms. These include headaches, neck and shoulder discomfort, and back pain.

Neck stiffness, headache, backache, and neck and shoulder pain are associated with computer vision syndrome. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) encourages taking frequent breaks from work. This helps to prevent discomfort and increase productivity, as opposed to prolonged pauses in the morning and afternoon.

Diagnosis and Assessment

Diagnosing digital eye strain begins with a comprehensive health history and eye exam. Eye care providers will assess any potential health risks and evaluate any issues, medications, or environmental factors that may be contributing to the symptoms.

Diagnosing digital eye strain necessitates a detailed understanding of visual symptoms, using a structured inventory, and properly assessing task-specific visual demands.

Eye Examination

Diagnosing digital eye strain necessitates a detailed eye examination. The exam focuses on visual requirements at computer distance and ocular surface health. Testing can be done without the use of eye drops. This helps to understand how our eyes respond in normal viewing conditions..

In certain circumstances, eye drops may be used to temporarily prevent the eyes from changing focus while testing is conducted. The use of an ophthalmoscope allows for a visual examination of the back of the eye.

Environmental and Visual Demands Assessment

The assessment process should include an evaluation of factors such as lighting, screen quality, and workstation setup that may contribute to digital eye strain. An environmental and visual demands assessment involves evaluating the visual tasks and environmental factors that are believed to contribute to eye strain when using digital screens.

This comprehensive assessment helps to identify specific factors contributing to an individual’s symptoms and aids in the management of digital eye strain.

Treatment Options

Treatment options for digital eye strain are diverse, encompassing lifestyle modifications and medical interventions. These treatments aim to alleviate the symptoms of digital eye strain and improve overall visual comfort and eye health.

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle modifications can play a significant role in reducing digital eye strain symptoms. Adjustments to screen viewing habits, such as altering screen brightness and contrast, increasing text size, and utilizing a larger monitor can help to alleviate symptoms.

Taking regular breaks and performing eye exercises, like palming, focusing, and blinking, can also be beneficial in reducing digital eye strain.

Medical Interventions

Medical treatments for digital eye strain include prescription glasses specifically designed for computer use and addressing underlying health issues. Computer glasses are specialized eyeglasses that are crafted to optimize comfort while using a computer, particularly for those who wear contact lenses or bifocals.

Addressing underlying health issues, such as vision problems, dry eyes, and fatigue, can also help alleviate digital eye strain symptoms.

Ergonomics and Workspace Adjustments

A person looking at a computer screen with a strained expression, with a desk lamp and a glare filter

Preventing digital eye strain requires optimizing the workspace, which includes proper lighting and workstation setup.

Ergonomics and workspace adjustments refer to the recommendations for controlling lighting and glare, establishing proper working distances and posture, and correcting vision problems in order to prevent digital eye strain.

Proper Lighting and Glare Reduction

Minimizing eye strain and discomfort involves controlling lighting and glare in the workspace. This can be achieved by:

  • Limiting lights causing glare
  • Reducing excessive light from windows near the computer monitor
  • Turning off or replacing overhead fluorescent lights with floor lamps that provide indirect “soft white” LED lighting.

Using antiglare filters on screens can also help to reduce contrast, reflection, and glare, although asthenopia may not be reduced.

Optimal Workstation Setup

Digital eye strain can be reduced by adjusting the workstation to promote proper posture, screen distance, and viewing angles. The optimal workstation setup consists of:

  • Positioning the monitor at eye level
  • Adjusting brightness and contrast
  • Utilizing proper lighting
  • Taking regular breaks
  • Ensuring an ergonomic desk and chair

By following these guidelines, individuals can help prevent digital eye strain and improve their overall eye health and comfort.

Protective Measures and Strategies

Maintaining eye health in the digital age necessitates the implementation of protective measures and strategies to prevent digital eye strain. Taking regular breaks, performing eye exercises, and adjusting screen settings can all help to prevent the onset of digital eye strain.

Breaks and Eye Exercises

Reducing the risk of digital eye strain involves taking regular breaks and practicing eye exercises. It is advisable to take a break from digital devices every 20 minutes for 20 seconds and look away from the screen to focus on something in the distance.

Eye exercises such as palming, focusing, and blinking can help relax the eye muscles and lessen the strain on the eyes.

Blue Light Filtering and Screen Settings

Utilizing blue light filtering options and adjusting screen settings can help minimize eye strain and improve visual comfort. Blue light filtering is a technology that reduces the amount of blue light emitted from digital screens, which has been associated with eye strain, fatigue, and other vision-related issues.

Adjusting the brightness, contrast, and color temperature of the display and utilizing blue light filtering options can all help decrease eye strain and enhance visual comfort.

The Role of Eye Care Professionals

A person looking away from a computer screen, taking a break and doing eye exercises

Diagnosing, treating, and preventing digital eye strain requires regular eye exams and the involvement of eye care professionals. Eye care professionals can diagnose and treat digital eye strain, as well as provide advice on how to avoid it.

It is suggested to have eye exams at least once a year or as advised. Consulting a healthcare provider on a regular basis can assist in the prevention and treatment of health issues that can lead to digital eye strain.

Impact on Children and Adolescents

With the growing prevalence of digital device usage among children and adolescents, digital eye strain has become an increasing concern for younger generations. Prolonged screen use can lead to symptoms such as:

  • dry eyes
  • eye fatigue
  • headaches
  • double vision
  • loss of focus

These symptoms can have long-term consequences on their vision and overall health.

Addressing and preventing digital eye strain in children and adolescents requires recognition of its indications, such as reduced attention span, poor behavior, irritability, and ocular discomfort.


In conclusion, digital eye strain is an increasingly prevalent issue in the digital age, affecting individuals of all ages. By understanding its causes, symptoms, and risk factors, we can take appropriate preventative measures and seek professional help when necessary. By implementing lifestyle changes, medical interventions, ergonomic adjustments, and protective strategies, we can ensure that our eyes remain healthy and comfortable in the era of screens. Remember, your eyes are your window to the world – take care of them, and they will take care of you.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get rid of digital eye strain?

To reduce digital eye strain, it is recommended to use the 20-20-20 rule (looking at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes), blink more often, take frequent breaks, adjust computer display settings, and upgrade your display. Improving office ergonomics and adopting eye-healthy habits can also help.

What are symptoms of digital eye strain?

Digital eye strain is characterized by symptoms such as dry eyes, irritation, blurred vision, headaches, neck and backaches, and fatigue. It can be caused by prolonged computer use or uncorrected vision problems.

What is digital eye strain?

Digital Eye Strain is a group of related eye and vision problems caused by extended use of digital devices. It is characterized by symptoms such as dry eyes, itching, eye fatigue, blurry vision, and headaches.

Does digital eye strain go away?

Digital eye strain can be resolved by reducing or eliminating the triggering activities, such as prolonged screen use or reading in poor lighting. However, if symptoms persist, it is best to contact an eye care professional for evaluation.

Can you fix computer vision syndrome?

Computer vision syndrome can be alleviated by reducing your screen time, however if you need to continue using digital devices every day the symptoms may return or worsen.


1. “Computer Vision Syndrome: A Review of Literature”

2. “Digital Eye Strain: A Review of Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment”

3. “Prevalence of Computer Vision Syndrome among Information Technology Professionals in India: An Evaluation of Efficacy of Yoga Therapy on Visual Functions”

4. “Prevalence and Risk Factors of Computer Vision Syndrome among Undergraduate University Students in Ethiopia”

5. “The Association between Smartphone Use and Ocular Health in Adults”


Photo graph of Dr. Conlon operating with loops on.

Dr. M. Ronan Conlon started his career in the field of ophthalmology at the same time as the development of refractive eye surgery in Canada. In 1996, he brought laser technology to Canada from Germany, which allowed him to perform laser eye surgery before it was available in the United States. With the establishment of the Conlon Eye Institute, Dr. Conlon has performed more than 40,000 refractive procedures and has advanced his expertise in LASIK and refractive cataract surgery.

The information on this page should not be used in place of information provided by a doctor or specialist.


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