How to Avoid Computer Vision Syndrome

By Richard Asa and Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
December 19, 2023
How to Avoid Computer Vision Syndrome

If you are suffering from eye strain, you might have computer vision syndrome. But you can learn how to keep your eyes from locking onto your screen.

Staring at an electronic screen for too long and straining your eyes is so common it has a name: computer vision syndrome. One global meta-analysis of 45 studies concluded that two of every three screen-users develops the syndrome.


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Symptoms of computer vision syndrome

When you stare for too long, you don’t blink as often as you normally would and can dry out your eyes. That happens at a computer, but it may be most common when you use smartphones, one study found It affects both children and adults.

Besides feeling your eyes become dry, irritated, and tired, your vision might get blurry. You might develop sensitivity to bright lights. Some people get a headache or shoulder, neck, or upper back pain.

Two hours of staring at a screen is too long, according to the American Optometric Association. Other complications include:

  • Poor lighting
  • Glare on a digital screen
  • Sitting too far or too close to a screen
  • Bad seating posture
  • Uncorrected vision problems

How to avoid computer vision syndrome

Make sure you look away from your screen every 20 minutes, focusing at least 20 feet away for about 20 seconds. That isn’t an exact science, but you’ll make the timing a habit if you practice.

The technology has developed some solutions. 

One is a Windows utility called Eye Defender. After a fixed interval, it will run a visual training program for your eyes on a desktop screen. You’re supposed to follow the pointer on the screen, which is meant to relax your eyes. 

The WorkRave app reminds you to take two kinds of breaks. Microbreaks are short, meant just to relax your eyes. Rest breaks are longer, such as walking around or stretching before you get back to staring. WorkRave will demonstrate types of stretching exercises you can do if you can’t come up with any on your own. 

Keep your glasses or contact prescriptions up to date. You might be surprised at how much or how quickly your vision changes when you stare at screens a lot. A yearly exam is ideal. Invest in computer glasses and wear them.

The position of your computer monitor can add to your eyestrain. Ideally, the center of your computer screen should be four or five inches below your eye level and 20 to 28 inches from your eyes.

Make sure your monitor has a high-resolution display with sharp type and crisp images.

To cut glare, clean the screen. Some screens are designed to minimize glare. Keeping shades drawn protects you from outside glare. Use incandescent lighting and avoid high-intensity lamps, which cast shadows and create glare. Place a dim light on either side of your workstation to create equal brightness without dark, shadowed areas.

You can also try eye massage or cupping. Rub your hands together to warm them and then cup your palms over your closed eyes and rest them. You can also massage the muscles around your eyes.

The best remedy is to stop staring at your screen. Look out a window and call a friend rather than texting.


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December 19, 2023

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN