Digital Eye Strain

Headaches When Working at the Computer? Hard Time Focusing After Staring at Your Smartphone? Welcome to Digital Eye Strain.


Nearly 73% of Canadians under age 30 experience the symptoms of digital eye strain. Let’s think about that for a second: 7 in 10 people experience symptoms associated with intense concentration. Headaches, blurry vision, neck/back pain, and other uncomfortable symptoms have become so commonplace that many just assume that it’s normal.

It isn’t.

Digital eye strain – sometimes called “computer vision syndrome” – is a direct result of not only the devices we use, but how we use them.


Have you heard of the 20/20/20 rule? If not, you may find that following it greatly alleviates the symptoms tied with digital eye strain. The gist of it is this: every 20 minutes look at something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.

For most people, it means simply looking out the window for less than half a minute. This brief respite allows your eyes and their focusing muscles to relax- after all, they aren’t designed to be “always on” for hours at a time.


We can help alleviate your symptoms! If you wear corrective lenses – eyeglasses or contact lenses – changing up the type of lens you wear is a good first start. Schedule an appointment to meet with an Optometrist so they can assess your symptoms.

Symptoms – The symptoms associated with digital eye strain often resemble other conditions and thus aren’t always called out for what they are. Look for:

  • Headaches, especially when reading or using a computer for long periods of time
  • Blurry vision after using the computer or smartphone for long periods of time
  • Back pain/neck pain
  • Difficulty concentrating after prolonged periods of computer or smartphone use
  • Your eyes feel “heavy”, difficulty keeping your eyes open
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Watery eyes/excessive tear production
  • Eyes that have a burning or itchy sensation

Causes – Digital eye strain is the direct result of focusing on something nearby for prolonged periods of time. Consider that your eyes evolved in a much more varied environment, where most objects were viewed at considerable distance. Compare that fact to today, where most people look intently at computer screens or smartphones that are well under the minimum ideal focal point for your eyes (approximately 31” away from your face).

Prolonged periods of concentration tax your eye focusing muscles, which were not evolutionarily designed to remain on-task for so long.

Addressing Digital Eye Strain – We can help by providing specialized glasses designed to enhance what you see and lower the effort required from your eye focusing muscles. By making what you see easier to see, the amount you need to squint and strain to see is drastically reduced.

Outside of specialized lenses, there are environmental and habit factors that you can address. These include:

  • Setting your computer screens at least 31” away from where you sit – This will place them in the “ideal focusing zone” for your eyes, reducing the level of effort needed to focus on the screen.
  • Ensure your work area is well-lit – Your ambient lighting should be at least twice as bright as your screens. This greatly reduces the level of strain on your eyes.
  • Take frequent breaks – Follow the 20/20/20 rule.
  • Blink often – You blink, on average, 12 times per minute. When focusing intently on a screen or book that number is reduced to an average of 5 times per minute. Blinking cleans and lubricates the eye- don’t forget to blink!
  • Invest in glare-reducing equipment – New LED screens have reduced glare compared to older LCD or CRT screens. If possible, upgrade your displays so that they reduce glare on your eyes.