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  • Writer's pictureMaria Cholakova

How to Prevent Eye Strain from Staring at Screens at Work?

Updated: May 11, 2023

Eye strain is one of the most widespread conditions among people working with digital devices every day. In this article, you will learn how digital devices impact the eyes and how often should you rest your eyes from the computer screen to avoid straining.

Computer screens: How they affect your eyesight and eye health

You have probably heard that staring at computer screens for long periods of time can lead to digital eye strain, also known as computer vision syndrome (CVS). According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, looking at digital devices is NOT necessarily harmful to your eyesight. There are, however, unpleasant symptoms associated with it.

Let's look at an example. The average person blinks around 15 times per minute. If they spend a lot of time looking at screens, the percentage decreases to a half or third, leading to eye strain. You know you have it when your eyes feel itchy, and tired after staring at a screen for some time. Some other symptoms include eye fatigue, headaches, blurred vision, and dry eyes.

Woman rubbing her eyes while staring at a bright screen at work

To minimize the negative impact on your eyes, it's recommended to follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a break and look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Additionally, adjusting screen settings to reduce glare and stand at the correct distance and angle also helps.

It's also important to practice good eye hygiene. For example, blinking frequently and using artificial tears to moisturize your eyes. If you experience persistent discomfort from staring at screens, it's a smart idea to see an eye doctor.

What you need to know about eye strain from screentime

There are many eye health myths about screen time, the effect of blue screens, and the causes of eye strain. For that reason, we are here to help you get the facts straight and answer the most pressing questions patients have on the topic.

What is eye strain and what causes it?

Eye strain induced by screens is also known as computer vision syndrome (CVS). The main cause of CVS is the extensive use of electronic devices such as computers, smartphones, and tablets, which emit blue light that disrupts the natural sleep-wake cycle.

Other factors that contribute to eye strain include poor lighting, screen glare, incorrect screen placement, and improper viewing distance. People with underlying vision problems, such as nearsightedness or farsightedness, may also be more susceptible to eye strain.

What are the symptoms of eye strain?

The symptoms of computer vision syndrome can vary widely between individuals, but some of the most common ones include:

  • Headache

  • Blurred vision

  • Dry eyes

  • Sore eyes

  • Itchy eyes

  • Eye fatigue

  • Double vision

  • Neck and shoulder pain

  • Difficulty focusing

  • Sensitivity to light

  • Trouble concentrating

Symptoms of CVS eye strain from screens at work

It's vital to note that not everyone who uses electronic devices will experience some type of eye strain. However, if you experience any of these symptoms after using a screen at work, consider taking a break and resting your eyes.

Follow the 20-20-20 Rule for screentime

To effectively avoid eye strain, it is important to give your eyes a screen break when at work. Safety microbreaks are the basis of the 20-20-20 rule.

The 20-20-20 rule is a guideline that helps reduce the risk of eye strain and other symptoms of computer vision syndrome as a result of too much screen time. The rule suggests taking a break every 20 minutes and looking away from the screen at a distant object that is 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Do we have something to scientifically back the effectiveness of the 20-20-20 rule? There is a study, published in the Nepalese Journal of Ophthalmology that might interest you.

Researchers examined the effects of computer use on Malaysian university students' eyes. After just two continuous hours on the computer, nearly 90 percent of the 795 students suffered from CVS. Their eye strain symptoms were significantly alleviated when they started taking short screen breaks and staring at distant objects.

Glasses on a laptop

Needless to say, research supports the statement that the 20-20-20 rule works, and it is the best bet to relieve some of the irritating CVS symptoms from screentime at work.

Learn more about how to improve your eye health in the Ophthalmology24's For Patients blog section.


All medical facts were checked by Atanas Bogoev M.D.

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