Eyestrain is common in today’s visually demanding world. A typical college schedule or office workday involves long hours reading, working at a desk or staring at a computer. A poorly designed study or work environment that includes improper lighting, uncomfortable seating, incorrect viewing angles and improper reading or working distances can add to the visual stress. As the day progresses, the eyes begin to fatigue, and eyestrain and discomfort can develop.

A poorly designed study or work environment, with elements such as improper lighting, uncomfortable seating, incorrect viewing angles and improper reading or working distances can add to the visual stress.

The following are key signs of eyestrain:

  • Sore or tired eyes
  • Itching or burning sensations in the eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Dry or watery eyes
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty focusing

Here are some simple steps you can take to minimize eyestrain, particularly during computer work:

  • Adjust your computer in your work space. Position the top of your computer monitor below eye level so you look slightly downward at the screen. This will help minimize strain on the eyes and the neck. If you are typing from copy, position the text at the same level as the screen. Adjust the screen brightness so it is most comfortable for you. Avoid glare on the computer screen by wearing anti-reflective lenses, adjusting window curtains or blinds, repositioning the monitor or using a glare reduction filter on your screen. Wear special glasses or lens coatings that block short-wavelength visible light if you use digital devices for many hours during the day.
  • Use proper lighting. Examine the lighting in your work area. Overhead lights can be harsh and often are brighter than necessary. Consider turning off some lights for a more comfortable lighting situation. Use an adjustable shaded lamp to provide specific task lighting as needed.
  • Take rest breaks. Take several minutes every hour to look away from the computer and allow your eyes to readjust. Consider standing up and walking around or doing alternate tasks that do not require extensive near focusing. Blink often to refresh the eyes and use artificial tear solutions, if necessary.
  • Maintain proper posture. When seated at a desk, make sure your feet are flat on the floor. Use an adjustable chair that provides adequate support for your back. When working at a computer, your arms should form a 90-degree angle at the elbows, and your hands should be tilted up slightly to allow your fingers to travel freely over the keyboard.

Making these simple adjustments to your study or work area can do a lot to prevent or reduce eyestrain. If you continue to experience eye-related symptoms, you may have a vision problem that requires treatment. Ask your optometrist.

Copyright American Optometric Association 2017