Computer Vision Syndrome

Computer vision syndrome is a type of eye strain that happens when you spend a lot of time using computers, smartphones or other digital devices. Symptoms include dry, irritated eyes, blurry vision and headaches. Treatment focuses on lubricating your eyes, correcting vision errors and adjusting your posture when using digital devices.


What is computer vision syndrome?

Computer vision syndrome refers to a group of symptoms you have when using computers or other digital devices for long periods of time. It’s also called digital eye strain. You might have eye irritation, blurry vision and headaches, among other symptoms. These symptoms are usually temporary, but they can disrupt your work day or normal routine.

Computer vision syndrome isn’t serious, but it’s uncomfortable. Treatment can help manage your symptoms. Over the long term, though, recurrent symptoms can take a toll on your work productivity or prevent you from doing things you enjoy. That’s why it’s important to learn what puts you at risk and how you can prevent or manage this common problem.

How common is computer vision syndrome?

Computer vision syndrome is very common. Researchers estimate it affects 60 million people around the world. Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, computer vision syndrome affected at least 50% of adults. During the pandemic, more people relied on digital devices for work and socializing. As a result, the number of adults with computer vision syndrome jumped to 78%.

The pandemic also caused more children to experience computer vision syndrome. About 50% to 60% of children dealt with this condition during the pandemic, according to some research.


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Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms?

Computer vision syndrome symptoms include:

  • Eye discomfort (most common). This can feel like dryness, watering, itching, burning or the sensation of something in your eye.
  • Blurred vision that comes and goes. You may notice it when refocusing your eyes from near to distance or distance to near.
  • Sensitivity to bright lights.
  • Trouble keeping your eyes open.
  • Headache behind your eyes.

Many people with computer vision syndrome also develop aches and pains elsewhere in their bodies. This can happen when your posture isn’t ideal or you stretch and strain your neck to see your screen. Symptoms can include pain in your:

  • Neck.
  • Shoulders.
  • Back.

What causes computer vision syndrome?

Extensive use of digital devices causes computer vision syndrome. Some research shows that continuous screen use for at least two hours can be enough to trigger symptoms. The longer you spend staring at screens, the more likely you are to develop symptoms.

The screens themselves aren’t fully to blame. Spending a long time focusing on close-up objects can strain your eyes, whether you’re looking at a screen or a printed page. But the screens add another layer of strain to your eyes. Here’s why:

  • Constant refocusing. When you use screens, you have to constantly focus and refocus to see the print (which is made of pixels, or tiny dots). Constantly moving your eyes in this way can strain them.
  • Screen contrast levels. Often, there’s a low contrast level between the letters you read on a screen and their background. This can make your eyes work harder.
  • Inadequate blinking. Normally, you naturally blink about 18 to 22 times per minute. You need to blink enough to keep your eyes lubricated. But when using a computer, most people only blink three to seven times per minute. Screen use may also cause incomplete blinking. This means you only partly close your eye when you blink. Not blinking fully or often enough can cause the surface of your eyes to dry out.

What are the risk factors for this condition?

You face an increased risk of developing computer vision syndrome if you use computers or other digital devices for at least four hours per day.

Your symptoms may be more severe than usual if you:


Diagnosis and Tests

How is computer vision syndrome diagnosed?

Eye care specialists diagnose computer vision syndrome by giving you a thorough eye exam and asking you questions. They may give you a form to fill out that asks:

  • The types of symptoms you have.
  • How often you have them.
  • How severe they are.

The more information you can share, the easier it’ll be for your provider to diagnose the issue. You should also tell your provider about:

  • The amount of time you spend using digital devices.
  • Your work environment and posture.
  • Any medical conditions you have.
  • Medications you’re taking.
  • Any eye diseases or vision problems that your biological family members have.

If your provider determines you have computer vision syndrome, they’ll talk to you about treatment.

Management and Treatment

How do I fix computer vision syndrome?

Computer vision syndrome treatment involves:

  • Managing dry eye.
  • Correcting your vision.
  • Changing your routine and environment.

Your provider will decide which methods are best for you. You may need to try several methods at once to ease your symptoms and keep the issue from coming back.

Managing dry eye

Using digital devices for long periods of time causes your eyes to dry out. This means you can develop dry eye disease. Or, if you already have dry eye disease, it can get worse. Treatment focuses on lubricating your eyes to help them feel better. Your provider may:

  • Recommend artificial tears (over-the-counter eye drops) to add moisture to your eyes.
  • Advise you to blink more often. You may not realize how much you’re staring at the screen without blinking until you’re aware it’s a problem. Making a conscious effort to blink more can help your natural tears soothe your eyes.
  • Recommend prescription eye drops or other treatments.

Correcting your vision

Refractive errors, even minor ones, can worsen symptoms of computer vision syndrome. Your provider may recommend glasses or contact lenses to help you see more clearly.

For some people, computer glasses are a helpful solution. Computer glasses correct your vision for objects at an intermediate (middle) distance. This can help when viewing computer screens, which aren’t as close to your face as a book but not as far away as a TV. You can also choose anti-glare technology for your lenses to help cut the glare from your devices.

Research hasn’t proven a benefit to blue light glasses, so talk to your provider if this is something you want to try.

Changing your routine and environment

Your provider will give you advice for changing your routine and adjusting the space around you when using digital devices. They may ask you about your posture, how long you spend on a device in one sitting and the lighting in your room. Making some small tweaks can make a big difference in your symptoms.

Here are some general tips:

  • Reduce your screen time. Try to use digital devices for fewer than four hours per day.
  • Take breaks often. If you rely on digital devices for work or other reasons, aim to take a 15-minute break every two hours. During that break, don’t look at any screens. Plus, to give your eyes a break from close-up vision, try the 20-20-20 method. Every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet away for about 20 seconds.
  • Find a comfortable position. Set up an ergonomic workstation. This can help you avoid straining your eyes from bending forward or stretching your neck to see your screen.
  • Limit reflections and glare. Light from windows or bright lamps can reflect on your computer screen and cause eye strain. Lower your blinds if there’s bright sunlight coming in. Use lower wattage bulbs in the lamps near your computer and avoid bright overhead lights.
  • Adjust screen brightness and contrast. The brightness of your screen should be about the same as the level of brightness in the room around you. This might mean you need to adjust your screen’s brightness depending on the time of day. A screen contrast of around 60% to 70% should feel comfortable on your eyes.
  • Make text bigger. Don’t try to read super small fonts. If a font isn’t at least size 12, zoom in. Also, when possible, adjust your settings so you’re reading dark print on a light background.



How can I prevent computer vision syndrome?

Many of the tips above for changing your routine and environment can also help you prevent computer vision syndrome.

Computer vision syndrome, like other forms of eye strain, can be hard to prevent. You may rely on digital devices for work, relaxation or connecting with others. But taking breaks and giving your eyes some extra care can go a long way toward lowering your risk of uncomfortable and recurrent symptoms.

Outlook / Prognosis

Does computer vision syndrome go away?

Often, reducing your amount of screen time can help symptoms go away. But if you need to keep using digital devices every day, symptoms may keep returning. Or they may get worse. Speak with your provider about how to manage this condition long term, especially if you have a job that requires lots of computer use.

Living With

When should I seek care?

It’s a good idea to see an eye care specialist once a year. They can check the overall health of your eyes and address any concerns you have.

Call a provider (don’t wait for your yearly appointment) if you:

  • Have new symptoms of computer vision syndrome.
  • Have symptoms that are getting worse despite treatment.

What questions should I ask my provider?

If you use digital devices at all, it may help to learn more about your risk for computer vision syndrome. Here are some questions to ask your provider:

  • Am I at risk for computer vision syndrome?
  • What symptoms should I look out for?
  • How can I lower my risk of eye problems from using digital devices?
  • Do I need a new prescription for glasses or contacts?
  • When should I wear my glasses or contacts?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Computers and other digital devices make life easier in many ways. But they can be hard on your eyes, especially if you spend a large part of your day using them. Talk to an eye care specialist about how you can enjoy the benefits of screen time without sacrificing the comfort of your eyes.

If you come across ads for products that promise to reduce digital eye strain, talk to your provider before buying them. It’s always a good idea to make sure research backs up the value of a product before you invest money or time in trying them out.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 02/19/2023.

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