children on devices

Digital eye strain

When screen-gazing makes you a sight for sore eyes

Whether it’s WFH, shopping for shoes or doing homework, much of our day is spent in front of the screen. And since the pandemic, you might be transfixed even more than usual. Discover how to look after your eyes in a digital-driven world.


What is digital eye strain?

No surprises that digital eye strain (also known as computer vision syndrome) is the discomfort you feel after looking at your devices – including your computer, phone or tablet – for an extended time. Symptoms can vary from person to person but may include:

  • An uncomfortable, strained feeling around your eyes
  • Headache, often around your temples or forehead
  • Blurry vision that may be constant or change with blinking
  • Dry eyes, which can also feel like stinging, burning or irritation


Why does it happen?

Digital eye strain is caused by stress on your vision from constantly focusing on something that’s close-up (rather than in the distance). Some people may be more prone to eye strain, while others may only feel it occasionally or after a long time (like when you’re scrolling through your socials and realise hours have passed!).

Other things that may make your eyes feel sore and uncomfortable are:

  • The way you sit at your desk, on the sofa or in bed (bad posture can actually affect your vision)
  • Glare off your screen (say from overhead lighting or sunlight)
  • Air con, heating or a dry environment
  • Vision problems, such as needing glasses


Can’t look away? Here are a few things to try.

Even if you need to be on your devices a lot, there are things you can do to prevent (and relieve) digital eye strain:

1. Take a break!

If you don’t have time to get out (why not offer to do the office coffee run?), at least relax your eyes and gaze at something in the distance. Try the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes, look at something 20 metres away, for 20 seconds.

2. Adjust your lighting

Make sure your space is well lit but that you’re not getting reflections and glare off your screen – you may need to change the angle of your device or close the curtains. You can also try reducing the brightness (but increasing the contrast) on your screen.

3. Treat dry eyes

Although dry eyes can be a bigger issue you need to see an optometrist about, here are some things to try:

    • Make sure your air con or heater isn’t blowing in your face
    • Use artificial tears for dry eyes available from pharmacies and supermarkets (if you have sensitive eyes, choose preservative-free drops)
    • Don’t stare at your screen for too long without blinking.

Learn more about managing dry eyes at home

4. See if you need reading glasses

To get your eyes checked, book an appointment with an optometrist (you can get a test every three years covered by Medicare at our Teachers Health Centres, or one every year if you’re over 65). While you’re waiting for your new specs, you can always get a pair of ready-to-go reading glasses from the pharmacy. It’s worth knowing that these ‘readers’ don’t damage your eyes, even if the script isn’t quite right (although some people get a slight headache if it’s way off). To see if they help, just put them on and look at your phone (at the distance you’d normally use your screen).


Remember, if your symptoms don’t go away or they get worse, speak to an optometrist. You can make an appointment at one of our Teachers Health Centres or optical providers.