Digital Eye Strain: Symptoms, Causes, and Solutions

Most of us these days spend a lot of time on computers. Whether it is for work or personal business, it is all but unavoidable. And it takes a toll on our eyes. You probably notice signs by the end of the day – fatigue, blurry vision, etc. But did you know there are some solutions that can help? Read on to learn what you can do to work smarter.

Devices – All Day Every Day

On average, an American adult worker spends about seven hours every day working on a computer or digital device. This approximation fails to factor in any free time many spend staring at phone screens, tablets or personal computers after the workday is over. Exposing our eyes to this much screen time can cause digital eye strain, also known as “computer vision syndrome.”

Digital eye strain describes the harmful effects experienced after extended exposure to digital devices. Some symptoms only cause short-term discomfort, but others can have long-lasting effects.

Symptoms of Digital Eye Strain

Most symptoms of digital eye strain are temporary, but some can last up until significant lifestyle changes are enacted. Some examples of the symptoms include:

  • Eye strain/fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Difficulty focusing between near and far distances
  • Tired eyes
  • Double vision
  • Dry eyes
  • Headaches
  • Light sensitivity
  • Neck/shoulder discomfort
  • Disrupted sleep cycles
  • Migraines

What Causes Digital Eye Strain?

While blue light exposure is the most widely credited cause of digital eye strain, according to the Cleveland Clinic, blue light is not as damaging to the eyes as people think. Many people do experience digital eye strain, but it is more the function of the following events than the blue light itself.

Digital devices such as computers, phones, and tablets emit a small amount of light and those with light sensitivity can feel bothered or fatigued over time.

Another potential cause of digital eye strain is a lack of blinking. Staring at a digital screen for a long time can cause your eyes to blink less. Blinking helps keep your eyes moist, so dry eyes often result from gratuitous screen time.

Distance to the screen is another factor. Looking at a screen from a short distance can also bring about digital eye strain. Holding your phone close to your face or leaning forward and squinting at a computer screen strains your eye muscles because doing so means they have to work harder to focus. Think about the difference between holding your hand a couple of inches from your face and trying to focus on your palm versus holding it a foot or so away. With normal vision, the eyes have a much easier time looking at the hand that is farther away than the hand situated extremely close by, and continuously trying to focus on the closer hand can cause your eyes discomfort and fatigue.

Finally, poor lighting can cause a glare effect on your screen as light bounces off the glass screen and into your eyes. This effect can be similar to looking at the sun without sunglasses.

How to Address Digital Eye Strain

There are some quick-fix solutions to addressing digital eye strain, but be aware that completely eradicating its effects may require significant lifestyle adjustments.

Eye drops:

Eye drops were made for reintroducing moisture into your eyes and helping reinitiate your natural tears. Using them regularly before, after, and/or while using your digital device can aid dry eye sufferers.


Humidifiers help to reintroduce moisture into the air. Having one nearby, particularly in the winter when heaters dry out the air (and, by proxy, your eyes) may be a good choice.

Frequent blinking:

Simply reminding yourself to blink may seem silly, but it can significantly help with dry eyes. If you start to notice your eyes drying up, take a moment away from the screens and just blink. Doing so can help to prevent symptoms from worsening.

Wearing glasses instead of contact lenses:

For those with prescription eyeglasses who usually wear contacts when working at a computer, consider switching back to your glasses. For one, your contact lenses likely aid in drying out your eyes.

20-20-20 rule:

One useful trick to address digital eye strain is commonly referred to as the “20-20-20 rule”. The technique is simple: after every 20 minutes spent in front of a screen, you take at least 20 seconds to look at an object at least 20 feet away. This helps your eyes refocus and can reduce or rid you of any difficulty focusing on near or far distances as a result of digital eye strain.

  • Adjusting text size:
  • Changing the font size on your device can help you read easier without having to get closer to the screen. You could also zoom in on web pages that have tiny, difficult-to-read text rather than leaning into your computer screen.
  • Taking breaks:

It is recommended that every 2 hours or so, you should take about 20 minutes to rest your eyes. If you’re at work and this isn’t an option for you, try avoiding digital devices for the first hour or so once you get home to give your eyes a break.

Busting the Myth of Blue Light Glasses

There is absolutely no harm in wearing blue light glasses while working on a screen, but evidence suggests they do not have much impact since blue light is not the culprit of digital eye strain. If you have a condition where light sensitivity is an issue, you can try lenses with an FL-41 tint, which is a better option than blue light glasses,

As a whole, digital eye strain can be addressed in a variety of ways. Although it has a wide array of symptoms and solutions, it has one root cause: prolonged exposure to digital devices. So, try taking a break from your phone, computer or tablet and rest your eyes. You may be surprised at how quickly your symptoms lessen or vanish entirely.