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What is digital eye strain?

August 20, 2022

Digital eye strain is a group of eye and vision problems. Your eyes may itch and tear, and are dry and red or you may feel tired or uncomfortable. You may not be able to focus normally. These problems are caused by prolonged computer or digital device use. Using e-readers and smartphones may also cause these problems.

What causes digital eye strain?

Reading text on a computer screen or digital device is often harder for the eyes than reading printed text. This is why working on a computer for a few hours may cause symptoms of digital eye strain, but reading a book may not.

Several factors help to cause digital eye strain, such as:

  • Screen glare
  • Poor lighting
  • Poor posture while using a computer
  • Viewing a computer at the wrong distance and angle
  • Uncorrected vision problems

People often blink less when using a computer than when reading printed text. This can cause dry eye, and may contribute to digital eye strain.

Who is at risk for getting digital eye strain?

You may be at greater risk for digital eye strain if you

  • Spend a few hours or more a day at a computer or on a digital device
  • Are too close to your computer or digital device screen
  • View your computer or digital device at the wrong angle
  • Have bad posture while using your computer or digital device
  • Have eye problems (even minor ones) not corrected with glasses or contact lenses
  • Don’t take breaks while you are working

What are the symptoms of digital eye strain?

  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Dry eye
  • Eye fatigue
  •  Itching
  •  Redness
  • Headache

How is digital eye strain diagnosed?

Your eye care provider will make a diagnosis after taking a brief history and complete eye exam. They will assess if any health problems, medicines, or environmental factors might be adding to your symptoms.

Your eye care provider may test the sharpness of your vision and how well your eyes focus and work together. For a more detailed exam your provider may want to dilate (enlarge) your pupils. Then they will use a device (ophthalmoscope) to look at the back of your eye.

How is digital eye strain treated?

  • Treatment includes creating a better work environment.
  • Rest your eyes at least 15 minutes after each 2 hours of computer or digital device use.
  • Every 20 minutes, look into the distance at least 20 feet away from the computer or digital device. Do this for at least 20 seconds.
  • Enlarge the text on your computer screen or digital device.
  • Reduce glare from the light sources in your environment.
  • Think about using a screen glare filter.
  • Place your screen so that the center of it is about 4 to 5 inches below eye level (about 15 to 20 degrees from the horizontal).
  • Place your screen about 20 to 28 inches from your eye. ( About arm’s length.)
  • Remember to blink often.
  • Fix your chair height so your feet can rest comfortably on the floor. Don’t slump over the computer screen.
  • Making these changes may help eliminate digital eye strain in many people.
  • Using lubricating drops
  • Treating allergies, if you have them
  • Creating a more humid work environment
  • Drinking more fluids (staying hydrated)

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