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Preventing Eye Strain at the Computer

If you spend hours each day working at a computer screen or other devices with screens, you may suffer from symptoms of eye strain. Eye strain is a common problem, but you can take steps to reduce your discomfort. 

What is eye strain? 

Eye strain is a set of symptoms caused by overworked eyes. The most common symptoms of eye strain include:

  • Red, watery, irritated eyes

  • Tired, aching, or heavy eyelids

  • Blurred vision or double vision

  • Muscle spasms of the eye or eyelid

  • Headaches 

Adjusting your computer workstation 

You can make changes to your computer screen to help reduce your eye discomfort and fatigue. 

Position your workstation to reduce strain. Make sure to:

  • Place the screen straight in front of you, not off to the side.

  • Position the screen about 4 to 5 inches below eye level (as measured from the center of the screen) and 20 to 28 inches from the eyes.

  • Use a document holder to keep reference material at the same height and distance from you as the computer screen. This prevents the need to change eye focus when looking from one to the other. 

Reduce screen glare with these steps:

  • Place the screen at a right angle to any windows.

  • Tilt the screen angle to reduce reflections from overhead lights or desk lamps.

  • Use drapes, shades, or blinds to control window lighting and glare.

  • Keep the screen brightness the same or brighter than other bright objects in the room.

  • Set your computer to show black characters on a white background.

  • Use a screen filter that reduces glare to enhance screen contrast and make characters easier to read.

  • Use a 3-sided computer hood if glare continues to be a problem.

  • Keep the screen clean and dust-free. Wipe it often with an antistatic cloth.

  • Keep the screen in focus. 

Other tips:

  • Use artificial tears or lubricating eye drops as needed to ease dryness and irritation.

  • Give your eyes rest breaks from the computer screen. Every 15 minutes, look up and focus on a distant object for about 2 minutes.  

Getting prescription lenses for computer use 

One of the easiest ways to prevent eye strain is to see a vision specialist. You may need prescription eyeglasses for computer use. Prescription lenses correct vision problems and can increase your comfort while at the computer. The type of lenses that work best for you will depend on your needs. Choices include:

  • Single-vision lenses. These lenses are used just for computer work. You would remove the eyeglasses when not on the computer.

  • Bifocal lenses. These are lenses with different correction on the top and bottom. You can have the top of the lens for computer use and the bottom for close-up reading. Or, you can have the top for distance vision and the bottom for computer use.

  • Progressive lenses. This is another type of lens with multiple-use correction. A progressive lens may have a large middle section for computer use. 

Talk with your eye healthcare provider about your daily computer use and vision needs to find which type of lens will work best for you. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Chris Haupert MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Tara Novick BSN MSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Whitney Seltman MD
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2023
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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