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How to Recognize and Prevent Digital Eye Strain

By Hannah Tinning
Reviewed by Beck Jinnette
Beck Jinnette

Reviewed by

Beck Jinnette
Beck has over 17 years of experience in eye care, holding her Certificate IV in Dispensing in Australia.
Digital eye strain is a common issue caused by using digital screens. Learn more about what it is and how to prevent it.
How to Recognize and Prevent Digital Eye Strain
There’s no denying that our world is shifting to even more screen time with our access to TV, computers, and phones. As we now spend an average of 8 hours a day looking at digital screens, it’s time to focus on taking care of our eye health. Unfortunately, there is no avoiding this issue, but there are things we can do to prevent eye strain.  We must take our eye health seriously, just like we do for our physical and mental health. If you’re worried about your vision or someone close to you, keep reading to learn more about digital eye strain, its symptoms, and ways to avoid it.

What is digital eye strain?

Digital eye strain, also known as Computer Vision Syndrome, is an unfortunate eye and vision-related problem caused by prolonged computer use (American Optometric Association 2022). Over the last few decades, these issues have become more common, with 2 out of 3 people reporting symptoms (Chu, A 2023).  If you use a computer or digital screen for extended periods, you most likely suffer from symptoms whether you realize it or not. Computer Vision Syndrome is common in children and adults and can lead to severe effects if left untreated. 

What does a strained eye feel like?

When you suffer from strained eyes, they may feel sore, achy, or tired. You may experience light sensitivity and discomfort when moving your eyes or focusing on everyday objects. In severe cases, you might even experience headaches or blurred vision.

What causes digital eye strain?

Eye Strain Causes
Eye Strain Causes

Digital eye strain can be caused by concentrating on reading text on a computer screen or digital device, which causes more strain than reading a book. Other causes of digital eye strain include:

  • Screen glare
  • Inadequate lighting 
  • Poor posture while using a digital device
  • Using a digital device too close or far from your eyes
  • Uncorrected/detected eye-vision problems
  • Less frequent blinking than usual when using a digital device
  • Extended exposure to blue light emitted from digital screens 
  • Infrequent breaks from your digital devices

Unfortunately, what causes digital eye strain is not just one factor but a combination of them all. It’s important to be aware of all the factors to ensure you adjust each one that applies to you. 

What causes eye strain in one eye?

It’s not uncommon to feel the symptoms of eye strain in just one eye rather than both. This can be caused by a variety of factors, like a change in your glasses prescription or an eye injury. Of course, looking at digital screens, reading in low light, or performing tasks that require intense focus can all contribute to eye strain in one eye.  Other factors such as allergies, dry eyes, or eye infections can also cause a feeling of eye strain in just one eye. It’s important to identify the underlying cause of eye strain to prevent further discomfort and protect your vision.

Digital eye strain symptoms

Computer Vision Syndrome and digital eye strain can be highly uncomfortable, resulting in painful physical symptoms like eye fatigue, blurred or double vision, neck and shoulder pain, and more.

common symptoms of digital eye strain
Common symptoms of digital eye strain
Most common symptoms of digital eye strain
Much like the causes of digital eye strain, the symptoms you feel may be a combination of a few or all of them in worst-case scenarios. If symptoms aren’t treated, you may also suffer from extreme digital eye strain that can cause vertigo, nausea, and twitching of facial muscles like the area around your eyes.

Digital eye strain treatments

Small changes in your everyday behaviors and environment are generally enough to treat digital eye strain. But if you are frequently suffering, you may need to combine a mix of different treatments and implement them in your daily activities.

1. Update your prescription glasses

As our eyes and vision needs can continuously change over time, it’s essential to make sure you are updating your glasses or contact lenses and having yearly eye checks. Up-to-date contact lens prescription and lenses may be required to match your vision needs for computer viewing. You can also customize your corrective lenses to include coatings that improve your eyesight and comfort.

2 out of 3 people suffer from painful symptoms of digital eye strain, which can be prevented with small, easy changes to your everyday routine and computer setup.

2. Rest your eyes with the 20-20-20 rule

Follow the 20-20-20 rule to give your eyes a well-deserved rest. The 20-20-20 rule is an easy exercise that you can implement everywhere. Every 20 minutes, give your eyes a 20-second rest by focusing on something 20 feet away. Repeating this throughout the day will help with eye fatigue and soreness.

3. Make sure your posture and computer position is correct

If your job is computer-based or you study online, ensure you have the ideal posture and computer position to reduce your Computer Vision Syndrome symptoms. Your screen should be 4-5 inches below your eyesight and 20-28 inches away from your eyes. Sitting upright with a well-supported back is vital. Add a footrest to support your feet and back to increase comfort.

4. Ensure your lighting works for you

Poor lighting, brightness, and harsh glare from direct sunlight can affect what you see on your screen. Try to relocate your monitor, close your curtains or shades to fix these issues, and experiment with your screen settings. Increasing your font size and adjusting your screen to the warmer end of the color spectrum can help alleviate the effects of eye strain.

5. Try some blue light blocking lenses

Add blue light blocking lenses to your prescription glasses to stay protected from the harmful blue light rays emitted from your screen. These lenses can be added to any glasses easily and will help reduce eye strain and fatigue caused by digital devices.
how blue light glasses work
how blue light glasses

How long does eye strain take to heal?

Depending on the severity of your eye strain and the cause, you can recover within a few minutes to a few days. It’s important to remember that your digital eye strain won’t heal unless you are taking active steps to relieve your symptoms. 

Who is at risk of getting digital eye strain?

No matter your age, you’re at risk if you have access to screens. Anyone looking at their computer, phone, or TV for two or more hours in a row can be at risk of developing painful symptoms. Of course, anyone who works, studies or spends prolonged time on digital screens can be at a higher risk than others.

How to prevent digital eye strain?

Now that you know what causes digital eye strain and how to treat your screen fatigue at home, you should be able to adjust your regular habits to reduce strain and avoid severe symptoms. If you feel your computer screen is the biggest trigger, consider looking into computer glasses that could also prevent painful cases of eye strain. Ensure you get a regular eye exam from your eye doctor so you can stay on top of any underlining eye issues and keep your overall eye health in check. For more information and eye health tips, ask our certified online Opticians any questions you may have.

Reference list

National Center for Health Research. (2023). Digital screens can cause eye strain for children and adults. Are blue light glasses the solution?. National Center for Health Research. Retrieved May 20, 2023, from

American Optometric Association. (2022). Computer vision syndrome. American Optometric Association. Retrieved May 20, 2023, from

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