What are the symptoms of computer eye strain?

Although eye strain can cause discomfort, it usually isn’t serious and goes away once you rest your eyes. You may not be able to change the amount of time you’re in front of a computer at work, or the factors that can cause eye strain, but you can take steps to reduce it.

Have an eye test

Regular eye examinations are essential for clear, comfortable vision. But they also offer a broader health assessment – the optometrist checks the health of your eyes and looks for signs of other medical conditions.

When you have your test, let the optometrist know you use computers often.

Rest your eyes

Regularly look away from your computer screen and focus on distant objects. For example, take a minute to stare out of the window.

Looking far away relaxes the focusing muscle inside the eye, which in turn reduces eye fatigue.

Use adequate lighting

Eye strain is often caused by excessive sunlight coming in through the window or by bright room lighting.

Use curtains or blinds to reduce the brightness of the sun, reduce the lighting in your room and avoid sitting under big overhead fluorescent lights.

If possible, use floor lamps instead.

Reduce glare

Glare reflected from light-coloured painted walls and shiny surfaces, as well as reflections on your computer screen, can cause eye strain.

  • An anti-glare screen attached to your monitor can help (and is a less drastic measure than painting the walls in a darker, matt-finish paint).
  • Reduce the external light by covering windows or using a computer hood over the monitor.
  • If you’re a glasses wearer, use lenses with an anti-reflective coating to reduce glare. At Specsavers, lenses are available with UltraClear SuperClean - an anti-reflection and a scratch resistant coating in one.

Upgrade your display

Changing from an old-style cathode ray tube (or CRT) monitor to a modern LCD screen can help avoid eye strain.

  • CRTs can flicker, which contributes significantly to eye strain, while LCD screens are easier on the eye and usually have an anti-reflective surface.
  • When choosing a new LCD screen, pick one with the highest resolution possible.

Adjust your monitor’s settings

Adjusting your computer’s display settings can help reduce eye strain and fatigue.

  • Make sure the brightness is the same as the surroundings and adjust the text size and contrast so that it is comfortable to read. Black print on a white background is the best combination for comfort.
  • Adjust the monitor’s colour temperature to reduce the amount of blue colours on your screen. Blue light is short-wavelength visible light that is associated with more eye strain than longer-wavelength hues, such as orange and red.

Modify your Workstation

The way you sit at your desk and arrange your equipment can affect your vision.

  • Having to keep looking down at a piece of paper and then up at your monitor can contribute to eye strain. Place documents on a copy stand next to the screen.
  • Make sure your workstation and chair are at the correct height. Improper posture while working on your computer can also add strain.
  • Your computer screen should be 20 to 24 inches from your eyes and the centre of the screen should be 10 to 15 degrees below your eye line.

Wear lenses specifically for computers

Wearing prescription glasses gives the greatest comfort at your computer.

If you wear contact lenses, consider wearing glasses when on your computer as contact lenses can become dry and uncomfortable during sustained computer work.

For more information on a range of other symptoms, simply visit our eye conditions hub.