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How to Cure Computer Eye Strain

Think about how much time you spend looking at a screen. For most of us, we spend nearly the entire day in front of a screen- be it a cell phone, laptop, work computer, or TV. One study in 2020 interviewed 2,000 US adults and found that the average American spent 4 hours and 30 minutes watching TV, four hours and 33 minutes looking at a smartphone, 3 hours using a gaming device, and nearly 5 hours on a laptop.


This adds up to a whopping 17 hours spent looking at digital devices daily. We can only assume that since 2020, as more of our life moves online, today, in 2023, the average American is spending even more time looking at devices.


And, unfortunately, our eyes have not yet adapted to looking at digital screens for so many hours per day. 75% of people who work on computers are impacted by computer vision syndrome. In this blog, we’ll detail exactly what computer vision syndrome is and what you can do about it.


What is computer vision syndrome?


Computer vision syndrome (CVS), also known as digital eye strain, occurs due to the extra strain put on our eyes when we view a digital screen. Looking at a computer screen or smartphone is different than reading a printed page. Letters on a digital screen are not as precise or sharply defines, the contrast of the letters to the background is reduced, and glare and reflections on the screen can make viewing more difficult. As a result, there is increased demand placed on the visual system as it adapts to the increased eye focusing and eye movement requirements.


Moreover, if you have any kind of vision problem, your comfort and performance in front of a digital screen can be significantly impacted. Uncorrected or under-corrected vision problems are major contributors to computer-related eyestrain. Even people with contacts or glasses may experience excess difficulties. Moreover, some people will tilt their heads while looking at a screen to see it more clearly, this can result in muscle spasms or pain in the neck, shoulder, or back.


Specifically, screen conditions that are more likely to induce CVS include:

  • Poor lighting

  • Improper viewing distances

  • Slightly blurry text on screens

  • Reduced contrast between digital text and the background

  • Poor seating posture

  • Uncorrected vision problems

  • Screen glare or reflection

  • A combination of all of the above factors.

For most people, symptoms of CVS arise because the visual demands of the task exceed the visual abilities of the individual to comfortably perform them. Individuals who spend two or more continuous hours looking at a digital screen every day are most at risk for developing CVS.


The most common symptoms of CVS or digital eyestrain include:

  • Eyestrain

  • Blurred vision

  • Headaches

  • Light sensitivity

  • Dry, itchy, or burning eyes

  • Neck, back, and shoulder pain

These symptoms can make it very difficult to work or find enjoyment through digital devices. Thankfully, CVS is not a permanent diagnosis and there are strategies that can help alleviate symptoms.


Strategies to reduce CVS:


One of the more effective (and simple) ways to reduce your symptoms of digital eye strain is to limit screen time. However, we understand that this isn’t feasible for everyone, especially if you work in front of a screen. So, here are some other ways to reduce your symptoms of CVS:


Adjust your lighting to reduce glare:


Do you have a window or bright light directly behind your computer screen? While natural light is undeniably great, glare and reflection will actually make it more difficult to read your digital screen. This will cause excess strain on your eyes as they focus on the screen in front of you.


Try using a desk lamp, turning off overhead lights, or closing the blinds to reduce the light that is directly above you, in front of you, or behind you.


Don’t forget to blink!


Did you know that people naturally blink around 20 times per minute? Blinking plays an important role in keeping your eyes lubricated. And, unfortunately, people tend to blink only 1 to 5 times per minute when looking at a screen. This is because, as we look at a digital screen, our eyes are more focused on trying to focus on the screen than remembering to blink.


Adjust your monitor:


Try to position your workspace so your monitor is about an arm’s length away from your face. This is around 25 inches. The top of your screen should be slightly below eye level. This is the best screen position to ease the strain on your eyes.


Also, adjusting the contrast or brightness of your screen will work to ease eye strain. Ideally, your screen will match the brightness of the room you’re in.


Follow the 20-20-20 rule:


The 20-20-20 rule is an easy and simple way to remember to give your eyes a break. Every 20 minutes, look away from your screen and at something that’s around 20 feet away from you for 20 seconds. This will give your eyes a moment to relax and readjust after focusing intently on a screen for an extended period of time.


Treating eye strain naturally:


For some people, if symptoms of eye strain don’t go away after adjusting screen habits and rearranging the workspace, it might be time to visit an optometrist. Vision problems might actually be linked to other eye problems like astigmatism, presbyopia, or farsightedness. Further, you might need glasses or vision therapy to alleviate your symptoms.


However, for many people, natural supplements have been found to reduce symptoms of digital eye strain. These supplements include:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: A 2015 study found that taking omega-3 fatty acids has positive effects on people with computer-related dry eyes.

  • Bilberry extract: A 2020 study found that bilberry extract reduced eye muscle strain for people using computers. Further, a 2015 study demonstrated that bilberry extract improved symptoms of eye fatigue.

Visual eye strain or computer vision syndrome can be an unfortunate side effect of using digital devices. Fortunately, you can work to prevent it by taking some of the measures we described above!


For more information about the Johnson Center, click here to contact us. Or email our office at thejohnsoncenter@gmail.com or call 276-235-3205 to schedule your complimentary discovery call.


The Johnson Center for Health services patients in-person in our Blacksburg and Virginia Beach locations. We also offer telemedicine for residents of Virginia and North Carolina!


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