How to Avoid Computer Vision Syndrome

By Richard Asa @RickAsa
July 14, 2016

If you are suffering from eye strain symptoms, here's how to avoid computer vision syndrome: Follow the 20-20-20 rule to keep your eyes from locking onto your screen.

Staring at your computer screen for too long is so common the American Optometric Association (AOA) has a name for it. 

Computer vision syndrome, or CVS, a condition that results from focusing your eyes or other device screens for long periods of time, causing computer eye strain. The average American worker spends seven hours a day on their computer either in the office or working from home, the AOA says. Computer vision syndrome affects 64 percent to 90 percent of all office workers. 


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Eye strain symptoms

The most common symptoms of computer vision syndrome are eye strain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and neck and shoulder pain.

These, in turn, can be caused by poor lighting, glare on a digital screen, improper viewing distances, poor seating posture, uncorrected vision problems, and a combination of these factors. 

“The extent to which individuals experience visual symptoms often depends on the level of their visual abilities and the amount of time spent looking at a digital screen,” the AOA says. “

Vision problems like farsightedness and astigmatism, inadequate eye focusing or eye coordination abilities, and aging changes of the eyes, such as presbyopia, all can cause visual symptoms when using a computer screen. 

How to avoid computer vision syndrome

That’s why the 20-20-20 rule for reducing computer eye strain symptoms was developed. What it means: Every 20 minutes, look about 20 feet or more away from your computer and focus on the length for about 20 seconds. This isn’t an exact science, but make the timing close. 

Since this conciously trying to avoid eye strain symptoms isn’t something you naturally think about, computer geeks (of course) have come up with a couple of solutions. 

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

The other, WorkRave, is an app that reminds you to take breaks at regular intervals to prevent computer eye strain. 

There are two kinds of breaks. Microbreaks are short and meant to just relax eyes. Rest breaks are longer and meant to have you walk around or stretch a little 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. 

Other tips for eye fatigue include getting an eye exam (you might be surprised how off your prescription really is), blinking frequently, considering glasses used specifically for the computer, maintaining a bright monitor, using proper lighting, checking your monitor’s position, and minimizing glare. 

You can also try eye massage or cupping, says Vision Source. “Massaging the area around the eyes will help relax the muscles and can be very comforting,” says. “Rub your hands together to create friction and warmth, then gently cup your palms over your closed eyes and rest them.”

For comprehensive coverage of everything eyes, including how to avoid eye strain symptoms at every age, take at look at the 2016 Digital Eye Strain Report by the Vision Council.  


March 25, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN