Computer Vision Syndrome: Q&A
Q: What to do about tired eyes from too much reading and computer? — Teachers from Salter Elementary, Talladega, Alabama
A: This is really a common problem nowadays. See your eye doctor and get a computer vision correction that will help you focus more accurately and with less effort. When prescribed properly, these glasses also can help you read printed material with greater ease, and the lenses can have tints and coatings to make your eyes feel a lot better!
I also recommend taking frequent breaks (every 15-30 minutes) where you look at something real far away, like out a window, to relax your focusing muscles. You should also make sure the lighting is correct for the activity you are doing — bright for reading and a bit dimmer for computer work, with no glare. — Dr. Dubow
[Read more about computer vision syndrome and problems related to computer use.]
Q: Is it necessary for adults and children to wear special eye protection when working on the computer? Is such protection necessary if vision correction spectacles are being used? — M.V., India
A: No. According to the experts, computer screens do not emit enough harmful rays to cause eye damage.
Eye strain is another issue, however. Having an accurate, up-to-date prescription and an ergonomically appropriate work station can make a huge difference in managing your visual comfort while using your computer. In my opinion, it is also essential to have an anti-reflective coating on your lenses to minimize glare. — Dr. Dubow
Q: Recently my vision has become increasingly light sensitive, and when I read, sometimes the words will appear to magnify, then demagnify. Occasionally it seems distance vision is blurred after doing close work. Is this computer vision syndrome, and what should I do about it?
The magnify/demagnify thing when I'm reading is my biggest concern. My ophthalmologist said he's never heard of this symptom. Thank you. — B.O., Pennsylvania
A: Yup, I think you nailed it on the head. Sounds like computer vision syndrome to me. Your focusing difficulties are really common to those who spend a lot of time staring at a screen.
I recommend you find a vision practitioner who understands this phenomenon and can prescribe glasses that will help you be more comfortable. You can also help yourself by making sure your work station is maximally efficient and comfortable — check out the lighting, height of your screen, angle of your screen, hand position, etc. — Dr. Dubow
Q: Can your eyes and face get burned by computer monitors? — J.R., Oregon
A: No. If they could, you'd see a lot of red-faced and red-eyed people. — Dr. Dubow
Q: The whites of my eyes are not white. They often become red when I work hard (such as read a book or use a computer).
I am 39 years old. I'm Thai, but now I stay in Belgium to study. Could this be caused by the change in climate? Should I go to buy eye drops? — R.M., Belgium
A: Your redness could be a sign that you are having trouble focusing comfortably. Have your eyes examined to see if you should wear eyeglasses to alleviate near vision stress.
It is not a good idea to use over-the-counter eye drops designed to "get the red out" on a regular basis without talking to your eye doctor first — your eyes can develop a tolerance to the whitening agent in these drops, which could cause even more redness in the long run. — Dr. Dubow
Q: How can I relieve eye stress from looking at computers all day every day? — C.W., Illinois
A: Eye strain is a very common complaint among computer users. Luckily, the studies I have read show that there is no medical damage caused by computers.
To relieve some of the stresses and strains, make sure you look up and far away, preferably out a window or across a room, about every 15 minutes.
It is also important to have a correctly structured and lighted work station. Your computer screen should be about 10 to 15 degrees below your eye level and tilted slightly away from you at the top, the way you would hold a book. You should adjust the screen contrast to be comfortable, and the room lighting shouldn't be too bright.
I also recommend you see your optometrist or ophthalmologist for regular exams, because computer users can develop vision changes, and an out-of-date eyeglass prescription can cause a lot of eye strain. Your eye doctor also can prescribe special computer glasses to reduce focusing strain and advise you about lens coatings and treatments to make your computer vision more comfortable. — Dr. Dubow
Page updated January 2021