With working from home being the new normal for lots of Australians, Specsavers is warning that the increased time we’re spending on digital devices is causing a lot of Australians to experience digital eye strain and associated vision problems.

We conducted new research1 just before COVID-19 restrictions came into effect in early 2020, which revealed that the majority of Australian office workers were already experiencing symptoms of digital eye strain before they started to work from home, with a massive nine out of ten people claiming to have experienced at least one symptom of digital eye strain while at work.

So many of us are still working remotely, spending our day staring at our computer screen and jumping between our devices. We don’t even get a break for meetings because they’re virtual too. We’re also watching more TV, so our overall time spent in front of screens could be as high as 10 hours or more a day.

Our eyes just aren’t meant to be fixed on a single object for that long and that’s likely to have a negative effect on our eye health.

The most common symptoms caused by digital eye strain, or computer vision syndrome as it’s also known, include:

  • dry eyes
  • irritated eyes
  • blurred vision
  • difficulty focusing
  • sensitivity to light
  • eye fatigue/strain
  • headaches
  • difficulty reading small print.

Looking at a computer, tablet or phone screen is different to looking at a printed piece of paper. On a screen, letters are not as clear or sharp, contrast is lower, and there is often more glare and reflections. All of this can make reading and viewing more difficult, and the eye focus and movement required for viewing digital screens can place extra pressure on our visual system.

Having a minor vision problem, or refractive error, such as myopia (short-sightedness), hyperopia (long-sightedness), astigmatism or presbyopia that requires you to wear prescription glasses or contact lenses can further affect our comfort while using digital devices. This can be because the prescription or lenses you have might not be quite right for focusing on screens or switching between digital devices.

Often people will tilt their head at an odd angle to help them see better because their glasses aren't designed for looking at a screen or they might lean in towards the screen to see it more clearly. This can then affect muscles in other parts of the body including the neck, shoulders and back.

If you’re doing a lot of computer work, these handy tips should help you to look after your eyes:

  1. Blink! We normally blink about 15 times a minute. Make a conscious effort to blink as often as possible as this keeps the surface of your eyes from drying out. You might even want to put a sticky note on your computer screen reminding you to blink often!
  2. Drink lots of water. Your eyes also dry out when you’re dehydrated so it’s important to keep up your fluid intake when sitting in front of a screen all day.
  3. Follow the “20-20-20” rule. Take regular breaks to give your eyes a rest: every 20 minutes shift your eyes to look at an object at least 20 meters away, for at least 20 seconds. The easiest way to do this is to look out your window at something outside.
  4. Adjust your brightness and contrast. If your screen glows brighter than your surroundings, your eyes have to work harder to see. Adjust your screen brightness to match the level of light around you. Also, try increasing the contrast on your screen to reduce eye strain.
  5. Reduce the glare. Digital screens often have a lot of glare so try using a matte screen filter to cut glare or simply cover your windows to avoid outside light shining on your screen.
  6. Adjust your position at the computer. When using a computer, you should sit about 60cm (about an arm's length) from the screen. Also, position the screen so your eyes gaze slightly downward, not straight ahead or up.
  7. If you wear glasses and spend a lot of time on screens, make sure you have the right lenses for your lifestyle. Specsavers SuperDigital lenses have been crafted with DigitalClear Technology to help you switch seamlessly between digital devices at different distances. They also incorporate PrecisionView Technology to provide dynamic vision. Read more about our specialist lenses
  8. Get your eyes tested. Regular eye tests can help you with clear, comfortable vision. But they also offer a broader health assessment – your optometrist will check the health of your eyes and look for signs of other potential medical conditions.

1 YouGov Galaxy, Digital Eye Strain Study prepared for Specsavers, January 2020. The study was conducted online among a representative sample of 1,118 Australians aged 18 years and older who work in an office or other environment involving considerable screen time.

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