What Is Digital Eye Strain?

Digital eye strain, or Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), is the most common computer-related repetitive strain injury and is as prevalent as computers themselves.  It is estimated that nowadays, we spend an average of six hours per day looking at one digital screen or another and that children between the ages of 8 and 18 spend 17.5 hours more at a screen than children did during the 1990s.  This means that we are seriously increasing our risk of CVS although ironically, less than 1 in 5 people have heard of the condition.


There are wide ranging symptoms but the most common include:

  • Red and sore eyes
  • Dry eyes
  • Headaches
  • Neck and back pain
  • Fatigue


Digital eye strain is caused by the overuse of digital media such as computers, televisions, smartphones, and tablets for prolonged periods of time, and is the result of the eyes having to continuously refocus themselves in order to process graphics and text.  Screens, made up of millions of tiny pixels put together to make a recognisable shape, often become distorted and causes strain for eyes.  This strain can cause headaches, neck pain, and fatigue.

Moreover, staring at a screen can result in a decreased blinking rate, which can cause uncomfortable and unpleasant dry eyes.  The purpose of blinking is to create moisture for the eyes and on average, we blink around 18 times per minute.  When using a computer screen or the like, this rate drops to around 9 times per minute, meaning that our eyes don’t get as much moisture as they need.


The best and quickest way to help prevent and overcome CVS is by following the 20-20-20 rule.  It’s simple – every 20 minutes, take a break for 20 seconds and look at something that is 20 feet away.  By doing this, you will give your eyes a break from the strain and allow them to refocus.

It’s also important to ensure that your environment caters to good eye-health.  This means dimming any overhead lights, sitting upright with the screen 20-26 inches away from you and tilted slightly backwards.  Make sure you enlarge the text to a size that you are comfortable with and adjust the contrast and brightness of your screen accordingly.

Staying hydrated will help with dry eyes, so make sure you drink at least 1.2 litres of water every day.  Keeping plants in your room may also help with dry eye, as they release moisture into the air.  Likewise, maintaining a healthy, balanced diet, filled with foods such as carrots, eggs, blueberries, and tomatoes, will help to keep your eyes in the best possible state and thus, better able to ward off CVS.