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What is Computer Vision Syndrome? Symptoms and Treatment

cartoon man sitting at desk with laptop rubbing eyes

The use of digital screens has skyrocketed in the last decade or so. The average American worker spends 7 hours looking at screens every day. This has led to the emergence of a new eye condition. Experts say that prolonged use of digital devices can lead to the development of computer vision syndrome or digital eye strain. This condition can cause symptoms such as eye ache and blurred vision. The American Optometric Association and Vision Council estimate that 6 out of 10 Americans have eye strain related to computer work. 

If you are one of the millions of Americans looking at a digital device for several hours a day, please continue reading. We are going to talk about the common symptoms of computer vision syndrome and what you can do to prevent it.

What is computer vision syndrome or digital eye strain?

Computer vision syndrome, or digital eye strain, is a group of vision-related problems, eye symptoms, and extraocular symptoms that develop from excessive digital screen time. This includes prolonged usage of mobile phones, tablets, e-readers, laptops, desktop computers, video display units, and other such devices.

What are the symptoms of computer vision syndrome?

Both adults and children can develop computer vision syndrome. The signs and symptoms can include:

  • External symptoms like ocular discomfort (eye pain), visual fatigue, and soreness around the eyes.
  • Visual symptoms like blurry vision, double vision, gradual loss of ability to focus on near vision (presbyopia), and slowness when eyes focus.
  • Dryness, redness, burning, tearing, irritation, and a gritty sensation in the eyes. 
  • Musculoskeletal symptoms like headache, neck pain, neck stiffness, shoulder pain, and backache.

In addition, children who spend an extended period looking at computer screens can develop a reduced attention span, behavior problems, and irritability. 

What can make digital eye strain worse?

In addition to prolonged computer use, certain risk factors can increase your chances of developing visual discomfort from digital screen use, such as:

  • Uncorrected vision problems (refractive errors) or a wrong prescription.
  • Contact lens use.
  • Older age. 
  • Female gender, especially postmenopausal women, are at higher risk.

A suboptimal-quality digital device can also increase your risk of developing computer vision syndrome. For example:

  • Blue light may cause damage to the retina.
  • Low-resolution video display terminal use may cause strain on the eye muscles.
  • Low screen refresh rates, poor image stability, and lack of a screen glare filter can likewise lead to eye strain.

Last but not least, environmental factors like room lighting can also lead to computer users developing digital eye strain.

  • Dry air, low humidity, dust particles, and other contaminants can affect eye health.
  • Poor lighting, too bright lights, or reflection from bright light can aggravate computer vision syndrome caused by viewing digital screens.
  • Improper viewing distance.
  • Poor posture.

Can computer eye syndrome be cured?

Yes, computer vision syndrome can be cured by limiting computer usage and screen time. In addition, you should take preventive measures and treat the symptoms of eye strain (more on this below). It’s also a good idea to visit your eye doctor regularly so that any underlying vision problems, such as changes in visual acuity, are diagnosed and treated promptly.

How do you fix computer vision syndrome?

Preventing computer vision syndrome requires a multi-pronged approach. First and foremost, you should limit the number of hours you spend looking at digital screens, ideally to a couple of hours or less per day. Other strategies that can help are listed below.

Tips to reduce strain from looking at a computer screen or digital screen

Other measures to fix and prevent digital eye strain include:

  • Keep any hand-held device at arm’s length.
  • Make sure your computer monitor is a high-quality one with a filter to reduce glare and other such features.
  • Ensure your posture is correct, with your back straight and feet flat on the ground.
  • Blink frequently and follow the 20-20-20 rule, i.e., look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes.
  • Use lubricating eye drops to reduce the risk of vision problems like dry eyes.
  • Consider doing vision therapy (eye exercises) to relieve eye strain.
  • Talk to your eye doctor about other vision correction options if contact lenses worsen your eye strain symptoms from digital screens.

How long does PC vision syndrome take to heal? 

Fortunately, vision problems and other symptoms caused by digital screen use are not permanent. Eye strain, blurry vision, dry eyes, and other eye symptoms typically get better within a few hours of stopping computer screen use. Other symptoms like neck and back stiffness and pain can take longer to improve.


  1. https://eyewiki.aao.org/Computer_Vision_Syndrome_(Digital_Eye_Strain)
  2. https://www.aoa.org/healthy-eyes/eye-and-vision-conditions/computer-vision-syndrome?sso=y