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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.

  • Put the screen slightly farther away from where you normally hold a book.

  • Position the top of the screen at or slightly below eye level.

  • 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 as 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 increase character legibility.

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

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

  • Keep the screen in focus. 

Other tips:

  • Use artificial tear eye drops to relieve 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. He or she can help figure out which type of lens will work best for you. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Haupert, Christopher L., MD
Date Last Reviewed: 11/1/2017
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