Let’s face it—most of us are using our computers much more every day than we would like to. According to a recent study, the average American spends over 7 hours on the computer every day. As the pandemic hit in 2020 and many folks transitioned to working from home, it seems that this number has only continued to increase.
With nearly half of our waking hours now spent staring at a screen, one has to wonder, ‘How does computer use affect my eyes?’
While using digital devices does not permanently damage your eyes, certainly prolonged use can cause temporary discomfort.
Eye problems caused by computer use are described by the umbrella term “Computer Vision Syndrome” (CVS) or “Digital Eye Strain.”
The most common symptoms associated with CVS include:
- Eyestrain/tired eyes
- Dry or irritated eyes
- Blurred or double vision
- Neck and shoulder pain
These symptoms may be caused by:
- Uncorrected vision problems
- Poor lighting
- Altered blinking pattern (reduced rate and incomplete blinking)
- Improper viewing distances
- Poor seating posture
- Computer factors: glare/brightness of the display, poor resolution and contrast
What steps can be taken to alleviate CVS symptoms?
First and foremost, it is imperative to have your eyes checked once a year to ensure that your prescription is up-to-date. Occasionally we find that patients are using an outdated prescription that is no longer accurate for their eyes, or they are using over-the-counter readers that are not correcting their vision properly (OTC readers can be helpful in some cases for the right patient). With prescription glasses, we can more accurately correct for refractive errors, like astigmatism and presbyopia, and can ensure that the prescription between the eyes is properly balanced.
Often patients ask us about the role of blue light in causing eyestrain. Though clinical study results about this topic are mixed and variable, anecdotally we find that the vast majority of my patients find that their eyestrain is greatly reduced through blue-light blocking measures (i.e. blue-blocking glasses coatings and computer display settings
Other suggestions to alleviate the symptoms of CVS include:
- Reduce the brightness of your monitor
- Enable your computer’s blue-light blocking mode. This is found under the display settings. For Macs, it is called “Night Shift.” For PCs, it is termed “Night Light.” You can configure the setting so that this feature is constantly enabled throughout the daytime.
- Use artificial tears to lubricate your eyes. We recommend using a drop pre-emptively when you first sit down to use the computer before the onset of your symptoms. Symptoms of dryness are exacerbated during computer use since our blink rate decreases to about half its normal frequency of 15 times per minute.
- Take frequent breaks by following the 20/20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break, and look at something 20 feet away. Take care to blink intentionally.
- Ensure proper working distance. Sit about an arms-length away from your monitor, or about 20-28 inches, and position it slightly below eye level so that you are looking downward at it.
- For contact lens wearers: consider wearing glasses during computer work. Contacts can increase symptoms of dryness and irritation
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