Women sitting at a desk, rubbing her eyes
Women sitting at a desk, rubbing her eyes

Digital Eyestrain (Computer Vision Syndrome)

Digital eyestrain (DES), or computer vision syndrome, encompassses a range of symptoms as a result of our increasingly prolonged use of digital electronic devices. Looking at any electronic digital device (such as a computer, smartphone or tablet) for lengthy periods of time can have negative effects on your vision and well-being.

Anyone who has spent a few hours on the computer has probably felt some of the effects. Now, more than ever, it is vital that we remain mindful of our screen time. Studies show that negative effects on eye health accompany increased smartphone usage.

There are a number of factors that determine the amount of strain your body feels as you work on a computer or other digital device, including lighting in the room, distance from the screen, glare on the screen, seating posture and the angle of your head—not to mention any existing vision problems you may have.

One or all these factors may combine to cause an uncomfortable amount of strain on your eyes and body.

Symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome

  • Eyestrain
  • Headaches
  • Blurry vision
  • Dry eyes
  • Neck and shoulder pain

These symptoms may be caused or made worse by other factors, such as uncorrected vision needs, glare, poor lighting and improper posture.

Tips to Minimize Digital Eyestrain

With these simple practices, you can reduce the effects of computer vision syndrome:

  • Check lighting (on screens + in rooms):
    • Make sure that lighting in the room is comfortable on your eyes and prevents you from staring into glare on the computer screen
    • Adjust brightness levels on your devices to match the light around you. When screens glow more brightly than our surroundings, the eyes have to work harder to see
    • Increase the contrast levels on your electronic screens, which gives the eyes a break. Using “dark” or “night” mode on electronic devices in the evenings can help as well
  • Make a conscious effort to blink more often:
    • Humans usually blink around 15 times per minute, but this number drastically decreases when looking at screens
    • Studies show that we only blink five to seven times per minute when using computers and other digital screen devices
    • Blinking is the eye’s way of providing necessary surface moisture, which helps relieve dryness
  • Increase moisture (in your environment + in your eyes):
    • Use artificial tearslink-out icon to refresh your eyes when they feel dry
    • Place a humidifier in the room to add moisture to the air
    • Instead of purchasing a humidifier, you can try adding a pan of water near your radiator or other heat source; this is especially helpful during the winter months
    • Use a hydrating contact lens solutionlink-out icon
  • Adjust position (of your body + devices):
    • When using a computer, you should sit about 25 inches from the screen
    • Position the digital display so that your head and neck are in a naturally comfortable position while using it. Studies show that it’s best to gaze slightly downward at computer screens (rather than up or straight ahead)
    • Make sure your seat is comfortable. A comfortable chair with support for your neck and back will help you avoid neck and shoulder strain
  • Take breaks (from the screen, the work + the chair):
    • Remember to follow the "20-20-20" rule: Every 20 minutes, shift your eyes to look at an object at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds
    • Take short breaks regularly. Studies show that this is a beneficial practice for mind and body
    • If possible, stand up and stretch at regular intervals. Sedentary behavior (or time spent sitting) is on the rise as we become more and more invested in our electronic devices. This behavior results in a range of negative effects on the mind and body, but it is not unchangeable. When possible, stand up, stretch, seek out natural outdoor light and move your body! Your eyes, brain, memory, neck and shoulders will be better for it

Did You Know?

Evidence suggests that blue light affects the body’s circadian rhythm, so while it may not directly disturb your ocular health, it’s best to avoid screens for a couple hours before bedtime. Using “dark” or “night mode” in the evening can also help. A good night’s sleep is beneficial to the eyes.

Further Relief From Digital Eyestrain

Use computer glasses, which are NOT the same as blue light blocking glasses. Computer glasses must be prescribed by an eye doctor. They allow you to focus your eyes specifically at computer screen distance (20-26 inches from the face).

There is little evidence at this time to support the use of blue-blocking filters as a clinical treatment for DES. Management of other ocular factors, as well as the creation of an optimal environment for screen viewing, are more likely to provide greater success in minimizing symptoms.

If prolonged hours with electronic devices is unavoidable, you may also want to purchase a matte filter for your computer or phone to reduce the amount of glare. Reduced glare is better for your ocular health.

Most symptoms caused by electronic device use are only temporary and will lessen if you stop using the devices. If adhering to these tips doesn’t help, contact your eye doctor.

Contact Lenses Drying Out?

Spending more time on digital devices may mean you are less satisfied with your contact lenses. Frequent use of a smartphone, tablet or computer may cause you to blink less, which could contribute to your contact lenses drying out.

Biotrue® Multi-Purpose Solution and Biotrue® Hydration Plus Multi-Purpose Solution provide exceptional cleaning, disinfection and up to 20 hours of moisture.*

Bausch + Lomb INFUSE® daily disposable contact lenseslink-out icon maintain 96% of their moisture for a full 16 hours* and are comfortable when working for long hours at a computer.

*Based on a laboratory study.
Results from a 36-investigator multi-site study of Bausch + Lomb kalifilcon A contact lenses, on 398 current silicone hydrogel lens wearers. After 7 days of wear, subjects completed an online survey that rated performance across a range of attributes. Performance was rated using a 6-point agreed/disagreed scale.