Dealing With Eyestrain

You have been sitting at your computer for hours. You have your ergonomic workstation, so your arms and wrists do not hurt. You have your ergonomic chair, so your back and shoulders do not hurt. And you have met your goals for the day. So, you feel great. That is, except for one thing...two actually...your eyes!

Staring at the Screen

Many forms of work can lead to eyestrain. The most common cause of eyestrain today is long hours at the computer. This is called computer vision syndrome (CVS).

Our eyes are designed to shift from objects that are near and far. This should happen often. But at the computer, it does not. Instead, the eyes focus on a single, close-up object for a long time. This can lead to eyestrain.

Symptoms of eyestrain may be:

  • Blurred vision
  • Headaches
  • Soreness or pain in the eyeballs
  • Watering eyes
  • Dry or scratchy eyes
  • Eyelids that feel heavy
  • Tiredness
  • Neck, shoulder, or back pain

Eyeglasses May Help

How can eyestrain be avoided? First, have a yearly eye exam. Make sure there are no problems with your eyes. If needed, special eyeglasses or lenses may help ease your eyestrain. These products are designed for working at a computer screen.

General Tips for Preventing Eyestrain

Other steps that may help reduce eyestrain are:

  • Lubrication—Blink your eyes often to keep them wet. Try eye drops or artificial tears.
  • Eye breaks—Give your eyes a break by following the 20/20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look away from the computer. Look at something 20 feet (6 meters) away for 20 seconds. This will allow your eyes to refocus. You can also take a break from computer work. File papers or straighten your desk. Take a walk outside. Close your eyes for few minutes and relax.
  • Air quality—Dry eyes can be prevented. Use a humidifier. Stay away from smoke. Turn down the thermostat in your work area.
  • Massage—Massage your eyelids. Include the muscles over your brow, temple, and upper cheekbone. Do this once or twice a day.
  • Sun protection—If you work outdoors, wear sunglasses with UV-ray protection.
  • Rest—If your work involves driving, pull over to rest your eyes. Do this at least once every 2 hours.

Proper Positioning

If you work in front of a screen, make these adjustments:

  • Screen position—Position the computer screen at least 20 inches (51 centimeters) from your eyes. Make sure the top of the computer screen is at, or slightly below, eye level.
  • Materials—Place your materials above the keyboard but below the screen.
  • Keyboard position—Place the computer keyboard right in front of, and below the screen.
  • Glare filter—If your screen has glare, put a glare filter over it.

Good Lighting

To have good lighting on and around your computer screen:

  • Adjust the brightness and contrast levels on your computer screen. Make the picture clear and crisp. The words and images on the screen should be much darker than the background. Black type or images on a white background are best.
  • If your computer screen flickers, lower the brightness control. If that does not work, get a screen with a higher refresh rate.
  • Place blinds or drapes on windows. Keep overhead lighting low to reduce glare and reflected light.
  • Keep bright lights out of your field of vision.
  • Do not have reflective surface around you.
  • Keep dust off your computer screen.
  • Make sure the text is large enough. If not, adjust it.

Minor adjustments can often make a big difference.


American Academy of Ophthalmology
National Eye Institute (NEI)


Canadian Ophthalmological Society
The College of Family Physicians of Canada


Computer vision syndrome. American Optometric Association website. Available at: Accessed June 15, 2021.
Eye strain: how to prevent tired eyes. American Academy of Ophthalmology website. Available at: Accessed June 15, 2021.
Keep your eyes healthy. National Eye Institute (NEI) website. Available at: Accessed June 15, 2021.
Randolph SA. Computer vision syndrome. 2017;65(7):328.
Last reviewed June 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 6/15/2021

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