The Epidemic of Digital Eye Strain and How to Fix It

In today’s technology-powered world, more jobs, schools, and projects require digital screens to get work done. As a result, more people are experiencing digital eye strain symptoms.

Children today are growing up with advanced technology at their fingertips. It seems as if children learn to use a laptop, smartphone, or tablet long before they can walk. It is safe to say that whether they’re playing the latest game or doing their homework, technology permeates a child’s life at a very young age.

Although a lot of this technology is beneficial, screens may have detrimental effects on vision comfort. Most adults and children use a screen for longer than two hours at a time. Long screen time use causes digital eye strain symptoms such as tiredness, watering of the eyes, etc., that affects all age groups.

Understanding Eye Strain

The term eye strain is often used as a catch-all to describe various symptoms. However, eye strain is just a non-specific description of multiple symptoms, which may or may be related to eye disease. The medical term used for eye strain is asthenopia. Eye strain can show up when our eyes get tired from intense use such as driving a car for extended periods, working at the computer for a long time, or reading continuously. The best digital eye strain treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the symptom which requires proper diagnosis.  For example, undiagnosed and untreated astigmatism is a common cause of eye strain. Eye-teaming disorders also commonly cause signs of eye strain.  In other cases, the symptoms are due to an eye disease including dry eye, keratoconus, macular degeneration, and glaucoma. That is why it does not make sense to take frequent breaks from the activity that you are doing, without first getting a professional examination.

Of the individuals that visit the optometrist’s or ophthalmologist’s clinic with eye complaints,  many relate to digital eye strain symptoms. Some eye strain symptoms that are brought on by intense use include tired eyes, blurring of vision, headaches, and the occasional doubling of the vision. If you are working on a visually intense task such as reading the fine print of a document, using the computer for hours at a time, or trying to see in the dark, you may develop discomfort or pain which you might attribute to overuse of your eye muscles.

With proper diagnosis by consulting an eye doctor, it is almost always possible to get rid of your symptoms of eye strain, including when a job demands long hours in front of the screen.   Treatment may range from prescriptive glasses, contact lenses, laser vision correction, to vision therapy, and ergonomic modifications around your workspace.

What is the Digital Eye Strain Symptoms?

  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Pain in the neck, shoulders, or back
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Dry or watery eyes
  • Sore or irritated eyes
  • Trouble focusing
  • Redness of eyes
  • Headaches.
  • Difficulty keeping your eyes open


What are the Causes of Eye Strain?

  • Undiagnosed and untreated need for vision correction whether through glasses, contacts or refractive eye surgery
  • Eye teaming disorders
  • Eye disease
  • Reading, writing or working on the computer for long hours
  • Playing games on the computer or mobile phone for a long time
  • Driving for extended periods


Helping our Children Maintain Healthy Vision

Children are using various digital devices just as much as adults. This means that children also face the same set of symptoms as adults and this may get exposed after using digital devices.

You might wonder if increased computer use at school and the after-school hours spent playing video games, watching television, or using tablets and phones may be hurting your child’s eyes. Although some parents believe that you can help your child maintain healthy eyesight by limiting the amount of time you allow the child to be on digital devices to avoid digital eye strain symptoms, no scientific evidence that suggests this to be true.  All children should have a comprehensive eye examination before entering in grade school.

How to Set Your Digital Devices to Prevent Digital Eye Strain

There are situations where simple changes to our computer screen to help alleviate the symptoms associated with eye strain, although they may not be as effective as prescribed treatment by your eye doctor.

  • Choose screens that tilt and swivel.
  • Place the screen at a distance of 20-26 inches from your eyes and a little below eye level.
  • Regularly clean the fingerprints and dust from the surface of your screen as smudges can reduce contrast and create problems like glare and reflections.
  • Use a glare filter for your screen.
  • Adjust your screen settings and lower your brightness to soothe the eyes.


What is Digital Eye Strain Treatment?

  • Remember that proper treatment requires professional diagnosis, not self-diagnosis.  See your eye care professional.
  • Depending on your diagnosis, treatment may include using artificial lubricant tears or prescriptive eye drops.  It may consist of using over-the-counter glasses, to prescriptive progressive glasses with something called prism.  In some cases, it may only require modifications in your habits and work environment.
  • If digital eye strain symptoms are absent or markedly reduced on days when computer use is more limited, this does not simply mean that you should make a habit of taking regular breaks and consciously blinking more.  Doing so does not effectively treat the underlying condition.
  • Some people believe that firmly massaging your temples with your fingers in circular movements for a minute and closing your eyes is often very helpful in relieving the symptoms of digital eye strain.  Likewise, this may not adequately treat the underlying condition.
  • Your eye doctor might recommend that you increase the resolution of your screen and reduce ambient lighting.  Your doctor may write a letter to your employer recommending these reasonable accommodations to your workspace.
  • Changing the brightness and contrast levels on your computer and increasing text size may also be beneficial and will go a long way toward alleviating specific causes of digital eye strain.


To relieve your eye strain symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your optometrist. ReVision Optometry uses the latest technology including an automated refraction system, to aid with digital eye strain diagnosis.

Posted in