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What is Computer Vision Syndrome?

By Autumn Sprabary

Computer vision syndrome, also referred to as digital eye strain, may explain your “tired” eyes, your blurry vision and even your headaches and neck pain.

The cause of your computer vision syndrome is all that time you’re spending in front of your computer and other digital screens.

One way to ease the effects of computer vision syndrome is to put some distance from your screens — literally and figuratively. (More on this later.)

What are the signs of computer vision syndrome?

Computer vision syndrome affects everyone in varying degrees, from minor and inconvenient to painful and distracting. Some common symptoms include:

  • Visual fatigue/tired eyes
  • Eye strain
  • Blurry vision
  • Red or irritated eyes
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Headaches

Dry eye syndrome is another symptom of computer vision syndrome because you blink one-third as often when you’re focused on a screen. The solution: Blink more to avoid blurred vision and dry, irritated eyes.

What causes computer vision syndrome?

The chief cause of computer vision syndrome is you — staring at the computer at work and then at your phone watching videos or playing video games at home.

With screen time soaring, nearly everyone, even children, may experience tired, strained eyes and headaches. Digital eye strain is your body’s way of telling you that your visual system is overwhelmed and exhausted.

To put it simply, we weren’t meant to work our eyes as hard as we do by staring at TVs, computers or phones for extended lengths of time with no or few breaks.

How can you reduce computer vision syndrome?

Follow this action plan to limit or avoid the symptoms of computer vision syndrome:

TAKE FREQUENT BREAKS: The easiest way to prevent computer vision syndrome is to give your eyes a break. The “20-20-20 rule” is an easy-to-remember method to keep your eyes from getting weary.

After every 20 minutes of screen time, stop and focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Longer breaks are even better — try 10 minutes away for every hour in front of your computer.

SEE YOUR EYE DOCTOR: Another way to avoid digital eye strain is to see your eye doctor routinely for comprehensive exams. Maintaining an accurate vision prescription is crucial for avoiding symptoms of computer vision syndrome.

If your eyes are red, dry, irritated or just feel tired, book an appointment with your eye doctor. Don’t wait until your next eye exam. If you are experiencing digital eye strain, your eye doctor can help. You may just need new glasses.

GET COMPUTER GLASSES: Computer vision glasses are a great way to reduce digital eye strain. The lenses are specially designed to selectively filter harmful blue-violet light that can cause the most eye fatigue.

Consider adding an anti-reflective lens coating to reduce glare, which acts as another source of digital-screen-induced headaches.

MODIFY YOUR WORK SPACE: Adjust the lighting of your home office (and your work space if you can) to keep the brightness near the same level as your computer screen. This will cause less eye strain.

Your posture and your computer itself could be contributing to your digital eye strain. Sit straight; don’t slouch in your chair. Keep some distance between you and your computer, too. We suggest positioning your computer screen so it is an arm’s distance away.

Reducing digital eye strain is all about balance

The key to preventing or reducing the effects of computer vision syndrome is all about moderation. That’s hard to do as our work and home lives blur, but regularly step away from your computer and reconnect with reality, family and friends.

To strike a better balance between your digital and real lives, limit your device use, maybe get a sporty pair of computer glasses, and take 20-20-20 breaks from your screens to keep seeing 20/20.