Eye health problems are increasing in 2022 compared to 2020, an Optometry Australia report found.

Many of the problems are the result of an increase in screen time during the pandemic.

88% of subjects in the 2022 report have experienced sore or tired eyes when using a computer or tablet, an increase of 9% from 2020.

Short-sightedness has also increased from 2020 to 2022.  40% of Australians who have had an eye exam have myopia – an increase of 3% from 2020.  Many people are not aware that increased time spent in outdoor light can help myopia, another reason to move away from screens.

What is Digital Eye Strain?

Digital Eye Strain also known as Computer Vision Syndrome is eye problems caused by computer use. Research suggests that if you spend most of your day looking at a computer screen, there’s at least a 50% chance you’ll have some symptoms of Digital Eye Strain.

Children can also be affected by Digital Eye Strain, as they spend long periods looking at a computer screen at school, then do their homework online, and also spend time in front of the TV or PlayStation time or pick up a tablet.

Whatever your age or the type of screen(s) you use, we’re all susceptible after enough sustained screen time.

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What are the symptoms and effects of Digital Eye Strain?

There are many symptoms, and you may not experience all of them at once. The most common changes to your vision include:

  • Blurred or double vision
  • Eye irritation
  • Red or dry eyes
  • Shoulder, neck or back pain
  • Headaches
Why computer screens are bad for our eyes

Our eyes are not built to spend a long time looking at detailed images at the exact same distance from our face. Using a screen means they are doing the same task continuously for hours and hours.

This repetition can impact you more if you already have uncorrected vision problems or are wearing the wrong prescription glasses or contact lenses.

Digital eyestrain can also lead to dry eyes, which adds to the effort your eye muscles are making to help your eyes focus. Your eyes may dry out more as we usually don’t blink as often when looking at a screen, which also increases the likelihood of developing dry eyes.

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How to find relief

To help avoid digital eyestrain and maintain more comfortable vision while using digital devices:

  • Take frequent breaks. Use the 20/20/20 rule: For every 20 minutes of usage, look away for 20 seconds and focus on something 20 metres away.
  • Use artificial tears or lubricant drops to relieve symptoms of dryness.
  • Reduce overhead lighting to minimise screen glare.
  • Keep your eyes an arm’s distance away from the screen.
  • Increase the text size on devices to see screen content more easily.

Your optometrist can help you too.

  • People with undetected long-sightedness (hyperopia) may have problems with the focusing required for computer or phone use.
  • Not wearing the correct (if any) lenses/glasses for screen work adds to your eye strain.
  • Glasses prescribed “just for reading” can not provide the right vision when using a computer, tablet or phone.
  • Younger people may have no problems driving or watching TV, but experience tired eyes when using their smart phone, tablet or laptop. Coordination between the eye’s focusing and movements can play a role here, this can easily be assessed by an optometrist during a comprehensive eye examination.