What is Digital Eyestrain?
Written by: Sean Smolenyak, O.D.
Digital eyestrain refers to a group of vision and eye related problems that can result from extended time spent on digital devices. Also called computer vision syndrome, patients can experience issues when looking at computers, tablets, and cell phones.
Looking at screens, regardless of type, has its own unique visual characteristics that differentiate it from reading printed materials. In many cases, letters on screens are not sharply defined with poor levels of contrast (how the letter stands out from the screen background) often exacerbated by glare and reflections from the screen itself. With the average patient spending over six hours a day on computers or devices, it is no wonder digital eyestrain complaints continue to increase.
The symptoms most experienced by patients include: headaches, blurred or fluctuating vision, dry eyes and neck and shoulder pain. Contributing to the problem can be poor lighting, glare off screens, improper working distances, poor posture and uncorrected refractive error (near-sightedness, far-sightedness, astigmatism or presbyopia).
Luckily for most patients the visual symptoms of digital eyestrain are temporary and will decline or resolve after working on the device. However, if nothing is done to address the cause, symptoms will continue to recur and might even worsen over time.
The treatments for digital eyestrain are related to the root cause. In some cases, adjustments to the location of the computer screen, seating position, lighting and anti-glare screen filters can make a significant difference. In addition, trying to take frequent breaks from screen time can be beneficial.
For many patients, accurate visual correction or enhancement with glasses, contacts or even eyedrops might be required. For some patients who do not require correction for other daily activities, prescribed computer glasses can make a tremendous difference. Digital eyestrain is a growing problem for many patients given the increasing reliance on devices and extended periods of screen time. These issues are best discussed during a comprehensive eye examination with your trusted eyecare physician.