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Eye Strain – Symptoms and Ways to Relieve it

You have experienced tearing, fatigue of the eye, or headache after a period of intensive prolonged work at a computer, you may be suffering from eyestrain.

Eyestrain is a common affliction that can occur after intensive, prolonged work focusing on the computer or on the road while driving. More specifically, it is a strain on the eye muscles. Eye muscles can get strained when they are overworked or held in a sustained position for long periods of time, just like any other muscles in the body.

Signs and symptoms

Common signs and symptoms1 include:

  • Watery eyes (tearing)
  • Sore, tired, burning or itching eyes
  • Dry eyes
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Headache
  • Difficulty in shifting focus between monitor and paper documents in your work area
  • Increased sensitivity to light

Eyestrain associated with computer use is on the rise2. A survey by Nanyang Technological University suggested that over 70% of the office workers reported eye strain in using IT3. The survey found eye strain and stress3 to correlate with the number of hours spent in front of the computer.

While eye strain generally do not have serious or long-term consequences, it is disruptive and unpleasant. It affects your productivity and personal life. Here are some steps to relieve eyestrain.

Methods to relieve eyestrain

You can reduce eye strain by taking the following precautions.

  • Take vision breaks. Throughout the day, give your eyes a break by looking away and focus on something other than on your screen. If possible, lean back, close your eyes for a few moments, and breathe slow and deep. Give yourself a five-minute vision break every hour. Do other work that does not require your eye to focus intensely, such as phone calls.
  • Lighting / Video display modification. Lighting in the room should not be harsh and glaring. Place the screen to avoid a reflective glare from the windows or lights. Sit at least 50 centimeters from the screen, with your eyes gazing down at it, at about an angle of 20 degrees.
  • Practice eye relaxation techniques. Eye relaxation techniques offer relief for tired and dry eyes, helping to prevent or reduce eye strain. (see here for some techniques)
  • Blink frequently. We tend to blink less when working prolonged at a computer, resulting in dry eyes. Blinking produces tears that can help moisten and lubricate your eyes.
  • Consider using artificial teardrops. Available in pharmacies, artificial tears can help relieve dry eyes that result from prolonged work at the computer.
  • Get appropriate eyewear. If you are using glasses or contacts, make sure the prescription is appropriate for you.
  • Check your eyes regularly. It is strongly recommended that you get annual eye check-ups by your Optician to pick up the eye problems at the early stage. Eyestrain can be due to specific visual problems, such as uncorrected refraction errors or binocular vision problems like accommodative insufficiency.

Adequate rest usually alleviates eye strain. However, if you suffer prolonged discomfort or notice a distinct change in your vision, you should immediately have an eye examination.

  1. American Optometric Association. Vision Discomfort Linked To Computer Vision Syndrome – Eyesight May Be Strained As A Result Of Improper Arrangement Of Computers. Website: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/101348.php.
  2. Bergqvist U O and Knave B G. Eye discomfort and work with visual display terminals. Scand J Work Environ Health. 1994 Feb ;20 (1):27-33.
  3. Palvia S. & Lai Lai Tung. IT use and incidence of stress by demographic factors: an exploratory study. TENCON’94. IEEE Region 10’s Ninth Annual International Conference. Theme: Frontiers of Computer Technology. Proceedings of 1994

Image: flickr Mister Scratch

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