Computer vision syndrome

Whether it's at the end of a long work day in front of the computer or after hours of using your phone or streaming TV shows, your body and brain may be ready for a break when screen time has taken over your day. You may not realize that your eyes need one, too. 

Computer vision syndrome, also referred to as digital eye strain, is a group of eye discomfort issues and vision problems may result from prolonged digital screen use. The issue can be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye examination, which may be covered if you have vision insurance.

Symptoms of computer vision syndrome

Nearly 60 percent of American adults report experiencing symptoms of digital eye strain, including:1

  • Red, dry eyes
  • Double or blurred vision
  • Headaches
  • Neck and shoulder pain

The symptoms may be caused by issues such as poor lighting, screen glare, uncorrected vision problems or improper desk configurations. While it does not cause permanent eye damage, the condition puts a strain on a vitally important part of your body. 

4 tips to help protect your eyes

Screen time is a fact of life for so many of us, but there are ways to manage our eye health while using computers or mobile devices for work or play. Here are four tips to help you protect your eyes, as recommended by the American Optometric Association:2

  1. Use the 20-20-20 rule and other rest tactics: Give your eyes some respite during the day. Set an alert to notify you after every 20 minutes of screen time. Take a 20-second break to look at something 20 feet away. While working, remember to blink frequently. If your eyes begin to feel strained, massage the area around them. 
  2. Check the tech: Keep your device clean, install an anti-glare screen and set your monitor as bright as comfortable. If strain is becoming a problem, consult with your eye doctor about computer glasses that help optimize eyesight when looking at screens.
  3. Ensure proper workspace design: Pull down window shades around your screen when sunlight is bright. Make sure surrounding lighting is dim and balanced. You want to avoid harsh lighting that creates shadows on the screen.
  4. Visit the eye doctor: The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health recommends that all computer users have an eye exam yearly. Find a local optometrist or ophthalmologist to schedule a comprehensive eye exam and consult about screen use and eye health, and check whether the provider works with your health plan.