Technology today offers your student so many good things, but Digital Eye Strain isn’t one of them. Also called Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), this condition is the result of prolonged use of tablets, computers, e-readers, and cell phones — every type of screen device that your student uses hour after hour in a long school day and at home for homework.

Extended periods of digital screen time can lead to eye discomfort, and that discomfort increases proportionally with screen use time. The more time spent staring into these devices, the greater the strain on the eyes. This high visual demand makes many students susceptible to vision-related problems. We’ve listed some of the symptoms to watch for below.

Symptoms of Digital Eye Strain include:

  • Eyestrain
  • Neck and Shoulder Pain
  • Blurred Vision
  • Dry Eyes
  • Headaches

These symptoms may be caused by:

  • Glare on the digital screen
  • Improper viewing distance
  • Uncorrected vision problems
  • Poor lighting
  • Poor seating and/or forward slouching posture

Students may experience varying degrees of visual symptoms depending on their level of use of digital screens. The time logged in front of those screens may contribute to one or more of the symptoms listed above. Additionally, uncorrected vision problems such as farsightedness, nearsightedness, astigmatism, eye focusing issues, and eye coordination can add to the problems associated with CVS.

Some students may experience temporary symptoms that resolve when they stop using their digital device, while others may experience symptoms such as blurred distance vision after stopping work on the digital screen. Some people experience symptoms that continue and even worsen with prolonged screen use.

Diagnosing Digital Eye Strain

Digital eye strain can be diagnosed with a comprehensive eye exam, which may include the following:

  • A patient history to determine any type of eye strain symptom being experienced by the student, along with a review of general and overall health
  • Measurements of the ability of the eyes to discern letters and numbers at a given distance
  • Correction of any refractive problems such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism
  • Testing to determine if both eyes are focusing effectively to move and work in unison to create a clear, single image

Using the results from these tests, your optometrist will determine whether you or your student may be experiencing computer vision syndrome and advise appropriate intervention.

Treating Digital Eye Strain

We have various treatment modalities to alleviate the eye strain associated with digital screen use. By scheduling a comprehensive eye exam along with making some simple changes in how the screen is viewed, your student can be successfully treated for the symptoms resulting from CVS.

Here are a few examples of how we may treat digital eye strain to improve visual comfort while using screens:

  • Computer glasses: Even though your student may not need corrective glasses or contact lenses for other daily activities, they may benefit from eyeglasses used specifically for screen use. Eyeglasses or contact lenses for general use may not provide adequate correction for the unique demands of prolonged digital screen use. Computer glasses with special lens tints that block specific wavelengths of light, lens powers, and anti-reflective coatings may maximize visual comfort and ability.
  • Proper body position and environmental conditions for screen viewing: Encourage your student to be “body aware” of these healthy habits when using digital screens:
    • Avoid bright overhead lighting, and don’t sit by windows without shades or blinds. Also, use desk lamps with lower-wattage bulbs to reduce glare and use anti-glare screen filters that decrease reflected light and make reading easier with less eye strain.
    • Chair comfort. Use comfortably padded chairs with armrests to support arms and wrists when typing.
    • Placement of computer screen and reference materials. It’s more comfortable to view the screen when eyes are looking downward from the top of the screen and about 20-30 inches in front of the eyes. Reference materials should be aligned with the screen to prevent neck strain and to prevent repositioning the head as the student looks from the screen to the reference material. Keep the screen free of dirt, dust, and fingerprints to decrease glare and improve clarity.
    • Rest breaks. After 2 hours of continuous screen use, rest the eyes for 15 minutes. During extended screen time, use the 20-20-20- Rule: Take a break after 20 minutes and focus on something 20 feet in the distance for 20 seconds before continuing. Taking frequent breaks and giving your eyes a chance to rest and focus on distant objects after so much intense close-up work can help lower your student’s risk for developing computer visual syndrome.
    • Blinking keeps the surface of the eyes moist and can help minimize dry eyes. However, the normal rate of blinking tends to slow down significantly when we’re staring at a bright screen. Remember to blink!

As we kick off the new school year, now is a smart time to become CVS-aware. Talk to your student about best practices when using digital devices, and schedule a comprehensive eye exam today to discuss any symptoms or concerns with your optometrist.

Make sure your student starts this academic year with the best tool for academic success — clear, comfortable vision!