What is Digital Eye Strain and How Can You Prevent It?

April 21, 2023
Girl adjusting her glasses to view her pc screen

There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted different aspects of our health and wellbeing. This includes some indirect consequences that might not be expected, but still affect significant numbers of people. One of these is digital eye strain. A major cause is our constant and ever-growing exposure to screens of all types. As many people have been working from home for extended periods of time, or spending more time indoors on their phones or tablets during lockdown, the numbers affected have increased.

Man with glasses with computer screen reflecting on his face

What causes Digital Eye Strain?

Digital Eye Strain is caused when your eyes are required to focus for extended periods of time, such as spending long period of time watching TV, driving, reading, or looking at your phone or computer screen. Prolonged screen exposure causes a reduction in blink rate, resulting in dry eyes which can contribute to eye strain.

Having uncorrected refractive errors can also give you symptoms, like eye strain and headache. This can happen if you need glasses but don’t know it, don’t wear your glasses when you should, or have a prescription that is out of date.

Another potential cause is having an eye muscle imbalance, i.e., both eyes are unable to focus on an object simultaneously, causing double vision.

External factors can cause eye strain symptoms too. Reading books or looking at screens in poor light, having your screen at an awkward angle, or not having your desk and keyboard set up comfortably, can all strain your eyes.

It is also important to know that people of all ages can suffer from a range of eye strain symptoms. Although there may be some common symptoms, eye strain does not cause Amblyopia aka lazy eye.

What are the symptoms of eye strain?

There are a variety of eye strain symptoms you can experience. For instance, your eyes might feel heavy, sore or itchy, or they might be red and watery. Your vision can be blurred, or you have difficulty in focussing.

Some people find that they become extra sensitive to light, while others can have a burning sensation. In some cases, you might have muscle spasms around the eyes, or your eyelids may twitch.

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should arrange an appointment with SA Eye Specialists to learn more about what forms of eye strain treatment might be suitable.

Girl can't look at her phone as her eyes are strained

What is Computer Vision Syndrome?

Computer vision syndrome is a particular variety of eye strain and is usually the result of muscles becoming strained in both the eyes and the body more generally. The latter generally occurs as a result of sitting at a desk or in front of a computer for long periods of time without sufficient breaks. If you feel pain in the neck, back or shoulders when at your desk, this can be a sign that your eyes are under strain too.

Eye strain caused by computers is an increasingly common condition, as is strain brought on by looking at phone and tablet screens for too long, particularly with your neck and shoulders hunched over. It can also happen when you look at screens without blinking enough, so it pays to be aware of this.

How to fix Eye Strain

Taking regular breaks away from a screen is one of the simplest ways of limiting computer eye strain. Eye specialists in Adelaide also recommend blinking more often. You should also make an effort to shift your vision and focus on objects in the distance at regular intervals.

Using an appropriately sized computer screen can also help, as can working in a well-lit space. Make sure your screen is at the right distance and angle from your eyes (e.g., about 10 to 15 degrees below your normal eye line), and your seat is at a comfortable height. A matte screen filter is another way of reducing digital eye strain, as this will cut down on glare and reflection. You can also turn down your screen brightness.

Regular eye checks prevent long term effects of eye strain

Even if you don’t spend long hours looking at a screen, or haven’t had any eye strain symptoms, you should still schedule an annual check up with an optometrist or ophthalmologist to ensure your eyes are healthy.

Book an appointment with SA Eye Specialists for digital eye strain treatment in Woodville in our private rooms.

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