Many people who use computers complain of eye strain. Looking at a monitor for a long time can strain your eyes or can make any other problems you are having with your eyes seem more noticeable. Symptoms include:
- Eye discomfort
- Sore, tired, burning or itchy eyes
- Difficulty focusing
- Watery eyes
- Dry eyes
- Blurred or double vision
- Increased sensitivity to light
Although eye strain can cause discomfort, it usually isn't serious and goes away once you rest your eyes. You may not be able to change the amount of time you’re in front of a computer at work, or the factors that can cause eye strain but you can take steps to reduce it.
Here are some things you can do to help relieve the symptoms of eye strain:
Have an eye test
Regular eye examinations are essential for clear, comfortable vision. But they also offer a broader health assessment – the optometrist checks the health of your eyes and looks for signs of other medical conditions.
The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 stipulate that employees using Visual Display Units (VDUs or computer monitors) should be provided with an eye examination, funded by their employer, when requested.
When you have your test, let the optometrist know you use computers often.
Download our Guide to DSE Regulations pdf (558KB)
Rest your eyes
Regularly look away from your computer screen and focus on distant objects. For example, take a minute to stare out of the window.
Looking far away relaxes the focusing muscle inside the eye, which in turn reduces eye fatigue.
Take frequent breaks from your computer
It is important to take a step away from your computer screen now and then.
For example, take a break from your computer by getting up to make a drink.
In fact, the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 requires VDU users to have breaks or changes of activity, but do not specify how often or for how long.
However, short, frequent breaks are more satisfactory than occasional, longer breaks.
Use adequate lighting
Eye strain is often caused by excessive sunlight coming in through the window or by bright room lighting.
Use curtains or blinds to reduce the brightness of the sun, reduce the lighting in your room and avoid sitting under big overhead fluorescent lights.
If possible, use floor lamps instead.
Glare reflected from light-coloured painted walls and shiny surfaces, as well as reflections on your computer screen, can cause eye strain.
An anti-glare screen attached to your monitor can help and is a less drastic measure than painting the walls in a darker, matt-finish paint.
Reducing the external light by covering windows or using a computer hood over the monitor might help.
If you’re a glasses wearer, using lenses with an anti-reflective coating reduces glare. At Specsavers, lenses are available with Ultraclear - an anti-reflection and a scratch resistant coating in one.
Upgrade your display
Changing from an old-style cathode ray tube (or CRT) monitor to a modern LCD screen can help avoid eye strain.
CRTs can flicker, which contributes significantly to eye strain, while LCD screens are easier on the eye and usually have an anti-reflective surface.
When choosing a new LCD screen, pick one with the highest resolution possible.
Adjust your monitor's settings
Adjusting your computer’s display settings can help reduce eye strain and fatigue.
Make sure the brightness is the same as the surroundings and adjust the text size and contrast so that it is comfortable to read.
Black print on a white background is the best combination for comfort.
Adjusting the monitor’s colour temperature can also be beneficial.
Reducing the amount of blue colours on your screen can also help.
Blue light is short-wavelength visible light that is associated with more eye strain than longer-wavelength hues, such as orange and red.
Modify your workstation
Having to keep looking down at a piece of paper and then up at your monitor can also contribute to eye strain.
Place paper on a copy stand next to the screen.
Improper posture while working on your computer also adds to the problem.
Make sure your workstation and chair are at the correct height.
Your computer screen should be 20 to 24 inches from your eyes and the centre of the screen should be 10 to 15 degrees below your eye line.
Wear lenses specifically for computers
Wearing prescription glasses gives the greatest comfort at your computer.
If you wear contact lenses, consider wearing glasses when on your computer as contact lenses can become dry and uncomfortable during sustained computer work.
The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 state that if an employee requires glasses specifically for VDU use, the employer is obliged to pay.
Download our Guide to DSE Regulations pdf (558KB)
For more information on computer-related eye strain, see our ‘Ask the Optician’ section.
To find out more about our Corporate Eyecare vouchers, visit our ‘Corporate Eyecare’ section.