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Can staring at your screen for too long cause eye pain?

In our world of staying at home and working from home, a lot of us have increased our digital screen time. Growing up your parents probably told you, “Don’t stand too close to the TV!” or “Watching TV can ruin your eyes!” While watching TV or staring at your computer screen for prolonged periods of time will not damage your vision, it can cause your eyes to feel uncomfortable.

You may have heard the term “Digital Eye Strain”. Symptoms include feeling dry eye, tearing, burning, headaches, blurred vision, and feeling tired or achy around your eyes. These symptoms can occur with any near vision tasks like reading or sewing when done for prolonged periods of time. They can also occur at any age, this includes children on their digital devices (ipad, phone, etc) for long periods of time.

While it is healthy to check in with your digital screen time usage it is unlikely that we are able to cut back on a lot of our digital use due to the current times we live in. Fortunately, we have some tips we’d like to share with you on reducing your digital eye strain.

Prevent Dry Eye

  • Blink: Try to make an effort to remember to blink while doing tasks that require prolonged periods of reading. Studies have shown our blink rate decreases from 15 times per minute to 5-7 times per minute while using the computer.

  • Diet: Eating a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids can help improve your tear film health

  • Lubricate: Use artificial tears to moisturize your eyes

  • Eye exam: We recommend a complete eye exam to evaluate your risk factors for dry eye and offer treatment recommendations.

20-20-20 Rule

  • Take regular breaks every 20 minutes, shift your eyes to focus on a distance object 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds. This helps reduce accommodative strain (the small muscles in your eye helping you to focus up close), reminds you to blink, and reset your eyes.


  • Uncorrected astigmatism and presbyopia can cause visual discomfort. Speak to your eye doctor regarding your need for prescription glasses for reading.

Do you identify with any of these causes of eye strain?


Sheppard AL, Wolffsohn JS. Digital eye strain: prevalence, measurement and amelioration. BMJ Open Ophthalmol. 2018;3(1):e000146. Published 2018 Apr 16. doi:10.1136/bmjophth-2018-000146

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