Computer Vision Syndrome: A Comprehensive Guide to Fight Eye Strain

Does looking at screens affect my eyesight? The short answer is…absolutely!

In a world dominated by digital devices, we find ourselves making more conscious efforts to avoid our screens than to use them. IBISWorld projects that the percentage of families who have at least one computer will reach 94.6% in 2024 and that number is just getting higher. We’re straining our eyes for hours on end to get work completed, and when we’re not working, we’re mindlessly scrolling through our phones.

This leads many users to suffer from Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), which is sometimes also termed as Visual Fatigue (VF) or Digital Eye Strain (DES). Computer Vision Syndrome expands beyond just your laptop or desktop computer. It is defined by the American Optometric Association as “a group of eye- and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer, tablet, e-reader and cell phone use.” So what is Computer Vision Syndrome and how can we prevent it?

Computer Vision Syndrome: A Comprehensive Guide to Fight Eye Strain

What Is Computer Vision Syndrome?

If you spend a lot of time in front of the computer, you may notice changes to your vision after a couple hours and ask yourself, “Is too much screen time causing my blurry vision?”

Adults and children alike can experience this issue. Children may be more likely to develop computer screen eye strain due to less self-awareness for time management and may also be using setups designed for adult use, with seating and lighting out of proportion to their size. Additionally, an increasing amount of education is delivered through digital media, further adding to the screen time.

Adults may be more aware of their visual symptoms. Still, they might find it impossible to step away from their computer because of work responsibilities, leading to the development of the same issue. We now rely on our devices for communication, entertainment, and recreation.

Computer Vision Syndrome: A Comprehensive Guide to Fight Eye Strain

Causes of Computer Vision Syndrome

By understanding what can cause the uncomfortable symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome, you can make better choices as you use your own devices.

Extended Near Work

Think of your eye muscles as similar to your arm muscles when doing a pull-up. When your eyes are looking in the distance, the muscles in and around your eyes are relaxed. When you focus on things up close, you have to pull your muscles tight. Now imagine holding that tensed pull-up form all day. Of course the fatigue will set in.

Incorrect Computer Setup

Improper computer setup can lead to additional strain on the eyes, neck, and back. A working distance too near will force our eyes to engage their focus even more than they need to. A working distance too far will cause strain on our eyes trying to focus on letters.

Uncorrected Refractive Error

Another common cause of computer vision syndrome is having improperly corrected refractive error. Even if you have eyeglasses or contacts, you can still suffer from the strain of staring at a screen because your corrective devices may not be suitable for the viewing distances your computer screen requires. At your next eye exam, we recommend asking your doctor if they can write a Computer Vision prescription for you in addition to your full prescription.

Dry Eyes

Most people blink 12 to 15 times a minute to keep their eyes hydrated properly. However, most people tend to blink significantly less when using a computer. Our brain just forgets to blink. Screen use can also lead to incomplete blinking, meaning you don’t fully close your eyes. We need to blink to get that protective oily layer onto our eyes. If the oily layer is unhealthy or there’s just not enough of it, the light rays that should have gone straight into your eye, starts to scatter and further causes eye strain.

Computer Vision Syndrome: A Comprehensive Guide to Fight Eye Strain

Computer Vision Syndrome Treatments

Treatment of computer vision syndrome treatment often involves a tailored approach that balances your exact needs and habits with tools available by your eye doctor. It’s possible to find the option that allows you to continue using your computer without experiencing uncomfortable Computer Vision Syndrome symptoms.

Revamp the Schedule

First, you want to consider updating your routine to incorporate more frequent breaks. Generally, you’ll want to reduce your screen time — at least a little. The 20-20-20 Rule suggests taking a 20 second break every 20 minutes to look at least 20 feet away. Yes, this means that your eye break should not be to switch from your computer to your phone. Set a timer, find a coffee break colleague, or choose from the dozens of web browser extensions that target screen time.

Optimize the Scene

Proper computer setup is crucial for optimal performance and comfort. Take an inventory of your deskspace and see how it compares to the OSHA guidelines. OSHA recommendations include having your monitor at or below eye level and having distance between your eyes and the screen at least 20 inches (50 centimeters).

Correct Your Vision

Having vision problems and spending a lot of time on the computer is not a great combination. You want to get corrective lenses that fit your exact needs. Getting computer glasses, which correct your vision at an intermediate distance, can be an excellent option for many people. Before your next eye exam, measure your typical working distance between you and your commonly used devices so that your optometrist can tailor your computer glasses to your specific needs.

Manage Dry Eye

Dry Eye is a complex syndrome that also requires a tailored approach. We’ll go into some of the at-home things you can try first.

  1. Blink More. Easier said than done, but blinking will help stabilize your tear film and create a smooth surface for your eyes to see cleary
  2. Stay Hydrated. Proper hydration is crucial for supporting the water aqueous layer of our tear film.
  3. Try a Warm Compress. For more moderate or severe dry eye, a warm compress performed 10 minutes daily can help melt the oil glands that become clogged from our lack of blinking, further enhancing our tear film.

Overall, dry eye is complex and it is advised that you consult your eye doctor for the best treatment for your eyes.

Get Regular Eye Exams

It’s important to ensure you get regular eye exams. Your provider will be able to catch any changes to your vision, allowing you to get more accurate prescription lenses. Having the right degree of correction helps prevent eye strain and catch any signs of dry eye.

Computer Vision Syndrome: A Comprehensive Guide to Fight Eye Strain

Find the Perfect Pair With Zenni

You don’t have to struggle with Computer Vision Syndrome symptoms every day. One of the best things you can do is get the right pair of glasses. After getting your prescription from your optometrist, it’s time to find your perfect style on the Zenni website. From Blokz Blue Light Technology to Oil-Resistant Anti-reflective coatings, Zenni also offers a host of lens options to help you tailor your glasses for your lifestyle. With a pair of Zenni glasses, you can be stylish and while giving your eyes the comfort they need.

About the Author: Dr. Catherine Ong

Dr. Catherine Ong, OD, is an optometrist based in the Bay Area, California. She earned her doctorate from UC Berkeley, School of Optometry and currently provides primary and speciality eyecare in a private practice setting. She has a passion for patient education and enjoys reshaping technical concepts into digestable topics for all patients. When she is not seeing patients, you can find her exploring new restaurants, exercising, or trying out new recipes.