Are You Suffering from Computer Vision Syndrome?

Written by Dr. David Evans   Last modified on April 23, 2019

These days, if you’re anything like me, you’re spending at least 10 to 12 hours staring at one digital screen or another, whether it’s a computer, a tablet or a cell phone. This prolonged activity can result in some vision-related issues; chief among which is computer vision syndrome (CVS).

female office worker sitting at a computer takes a break to apply eye drops

Also referred to as digital eye strain — and not to be confused with the nationwide chain of pharmacies — CVS is tied directly to the amount of time we spend straining to look at digital screens. In this sense it could be classified as a repetitive stress injury. There are a variety of factors that make staring at a screen more problematic than staring at a piece of paper, including the flickering, glare and lighting associated with your device. If you’re somebody that likes to keep your iPhone tuned to the brightest screen setting, it’s not just your battery life that’s taking a hit. You’re also stressing your eyes more. The potential for CVS is higher among those who already suffer from forms of vision impairment such as nearsightedness or astigmatism. How many times do you struggle to read a text on your phone rather than get up to grab your reading glasses? That’s something I’m certainly guilty of on a regular basis.

The compounding effect of prolonged digital screen use and bad habits can manifest itself in a variety of ways, some of the more common of which include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Dry eyes
  • Eyestrain or irritation
  • Headaches
  • Neck or back pain

Before you get too concerned and start throwing out all your digital devices, you should know that CVS is typically a temporary nuisance that subsides once you switch off the device and take a break. In fact, for most people it’s more of a workplace issue that, at worst, affects productivity and performance. That said, it’s not uncommon for some people to experience the effects of CVS even after they have stopped staring at a digital screen. If left unchecked, such cases could lead to worsening eye problems.

If you feel that you might be experiencing computer vision syndrome, there are a number of steps that you can take to correct the problem, starting with better management of your digital screen use. Take plenty of breaks throughout the day to rest and relax your eyes. When you are using digital screens, be aware of your viewing distance, posture and lighting. And perhaps most importantly, consider regular eye health checkups with an ophthalmologist.

Some new technological developments are popping up that may help the presbyopia age group better manage certain aspects of CVS. Newly developed IOLs offer three focal distances: near, far and intermediate (computer viewing distance). Being able to focus on the computer without needing to grab your glasses or move your head closer to or further from the screen may help relieve some of the stress with CVS. Expect these new developments to continue as the baby boomer generation ages.

Read more about computer vision syndrome