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Computer Eye Strain

What is computer eye strain?


With the amount most people use computers in their daily life it’s no surprise that there are so many complaining of computer related eye strain. While the condition is common it is rarely serious and usually goes away after resting your eyes, but it can be uncomfortable. Studies report that computer eye strain and other visual complaints affect 50 to 90 percent of computer workers. Looking at a computer screen for a long time can strain your eyes or cause other conditions to become more noticeable or uncomfortable. Some symptoms of computer eye strain are:

  • Dry eyes
  • Sore, tired, burning or itchy eyes
  • Headaches
  • Physical tiredness
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Eye twitches
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Watery eyes
  • Red eyes
  • Eye discomfort
  • Light sensitivity

Relieving symptoms of computer eye strain

If you can’t change the amount of time you spend on the computer, at work for example, then there are some things you can do to relieve the symptoms of eye strain.

Eye Exam

It is essential to get regular eye tests to check your vision and eye health, and it is even more important if you are experiencing any of the symptoms above. Eye exams can help ensure you are seeing clearly and comfortably and monitor any changes in your vision. They are also important as testing is often how eye conditions are detected in order to be treated. Many eye conditions if detected early are easier to treat so it’s important to attend eye tests as instructed by your optician.

When you have your eye tested be sure to advise the optician that you use a computer and let them know any symptoms or discomfort you are experiencing.

Proper Lighting

Eye strain is often caused by too much light coming from either a window or indoor lighting. If possible dim the lighting to a comfortable level by using blinds or curtains to block out excessive light, try to avoid sitting directly under florescent lighting and where possible use softer lighting such as lamps. If possible adjust your position so any windows are to the sides of the screen, not directly in front or behind it.

Display settings

If possible, try to use LED flat-panel monitors like laptop screens (rather than tube-style monitors) as they are easier on the eyes and usually have an anti-reflective surface. Some screens including tube-style monitors can flicker which is a major contributor to eye strain. This flicker may not be noticeable but can cause a lot of discomfort and it is even more likely if the refresh rate of the monitor is less than 75 hertz. Try to ensure the refresh rate on your monitor is as high as possible if using a tube-style monitor. When choosing an LED monitor try to pick one with the highest resolution you can as this gives a sharper image and is easier on the eyes.

Adjusting the settings on your computer’s display can also be very helpful in reducing eye strain:

  • Brightness: try to adjust your screen’s brightness to the same level as the light in the room and your surrounding work station.
  • Text size and contrast: generally black text with a white background is the most comfortable to read, but adjusting the text size may help a lot. Experiment with different sizes to find which setting seems most comfortable for you.
  • Display colour temperature: this means the amount of blue light emitted by the screen. Blue light has been associated with eye strain than colours like orange and red. Reducing the colour temperature of your display reduces the amount of blue light and increases the orange/red light emitted, which some may find helpful and more comfortable.
  • Eye exercises

    Your eyes may feel strained and tired if you spend too much time focusing your eyes on the same area or distance. To avoid this, look away from your screen every 20 minutes and focus on something in the distance for at least 20 seconds. Looking far away relaxes the muscle in your eye used for focusing on objects close up, which can help reduce discomfort and strain. This exercise reduces the risk of accommodative spasm or the eyes focus ‘locking up’ after spending a lot of time looking at the computer. It’s also important to remember to blink frequently while using the computer and during these exercises to reduce the discomfort of dry eyes.

    Taking breaks

    While eye exercises can help it is also important to take short, frequent breaks away from your computer regularly. Taking breaks isn’t just good for your eyes; it also helps with posture and neck and shoulder pain from sitting in the same position for a long time. During these breaks, stand up, move and stretch your arms, legs, back, neck and shoulders to reduce tension and muscle fatigue.

    Consider computer eyewear

    Wearing the correct prescription glasses ensures the most comfort when using a computer so it is important to discuss this with your optician at your eye exam. You may need a specific prescription for use with computers which will be set and tested at an appropriate distance for you; this is usually called either an intermediate or VDU prescription. Glasses are generally better for computer work as you tend to blink less than usual when looking at computer screens, which can dry out contact lenses and cause discomfort.

    You may also want to consider adding a yellow or blue tint to your prescription lenses as this can reduce the blue light entering your eye (this is similar to changing the display colour temperature of your screen). This light has not been proven to be damaging to the eye or your vision, but can contribute to eye strain.

    We also recommend taking a look at our guide to lenses for digital & blue light protection. View Guide


    Computer Eye Strain FAQs