Computer-Related Eye Fatigue

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Computer-related eye fatigue, also referred to as computer vision syndrome, describes the combination of eye and vision-related problems associated with prolonged computer use. Working at a computer for extended periods of time is visually demanding, requiring frequent eye movement, eye focusing, and eye alignment processes. Problems can occur when the visual demands of the task exceed the visual abilities of the individual to perform the task comfortably.

Images on computer screens are formed by tiny dots called pixels, so the eyes have to work harder to keep the pixelated images in focus. There is no scientific evidence that staring at a computer screen for long periods is harmful to the eyes or will cause permanent eye damage. Working on a computer, however, is a demanding visual task that can make your eyes may feel dry and tired.

Studies show that humans blink half the usual amount of time when using computers. Blinking leaves a thin layer of tear film over the front of the eye, helping the eye to focus properly. Not blinking can cause images to look blurry and lead to dry eye.

Eyestrain can be made worse by:

  • Marathon work sessions
  • Sleep deprivation 

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of computer-related eye fatigue may include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Difficulty focusing after leaving the computer
  • Dry and irritated eyes
  • Redness
  • Eyestrain
  • Headache
  • Potentially related orthopedic complaints, such as stiff neck and neck pain


Eye exercises may help limit eyestrain from computer use:

  • Look around at objects that are at different distances. Follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at an object at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Put a note on your computer reminding yourself to blink.
  • Reduce the brightness of your computer screen or use a screen filter to reduce computer glare.
  • Sit two feet from the computer screen and make sure your eye gaze is slightly downward.

Other steps to alleviate eyestrain:

  • Limit contact lens wear and make sure contact lenses are cleaned properly.
  • Place a damp, warm washcloth over closed eyes or use artificial tears to refresh tired, dry eyes.
  • Take regular breaks.
  • When eyes start feeling sore, use that a signal to step away from the computer.

For ongoing problems, a Computer Vision Evaluation may be helpful. The Video Display Terminal Specialty Service at the Stein Eye Institute offers a comprehensive evaluation of computer-related vision problems. The evaluation includes vision testing and ergonomic analysis. When treatment is indicated, options might include optical aids, special computer glasses, prisms, eye exercises, filters, and ergonomic aids.