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How Long Does Digital Eye Strain Last?

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A man sitting at a desk in an office with his laptop and holding his glasses in his right hand as he rubs his eyes

In today’s hyper-connected world, our eyes are more fatigued than ever before. With work, entertainment, and even social interactions requiring prolonged screen time, the phenomenon of digital eye strain is a growing concern.

For the diligent workers of the digital era—remote employees, students, gamers—digital eye strain is uncomfortable and can affect long-term eye health.

But how long does this strain actually last? While the exact duration depends on many factors, most people say it resolves in around an hour, just so long as you take a screen break. For symptoms that don’t fade, we can search for the underlying cause with an eye exam and offer advice to give your eyes a well-deserved rest.

What Is Digital Eye Strain?

Digital eye strain, also known as computer vision syndrome, is the discomfort experienced after hours of screen time. Even if your vision is typically fine, the increased demands that constant screen time puts on your eyes can exacerbate underlying vision problems. Its duration can vary from person to person and depends on several factors, though many sufferers say it should fade within an hour after taking a break.

Our eyes constantly adjust and readjust as we focus on a screen, leading to overworked eye muscles. Just like lifting weights or walking up stairs can make your arms and leg muscles start to burn, your eye muscles get tired.

An often overlooked cause of digital eye strain is the significant reduction in blinking while engrossed in screens. Blinking helps to moisten the eyes, preventing dryness and irritation.

Here’s an interesting fact: we normally blink about 17 times per minute. However, while working on a computer or watching TV, we may only blink 4 times per minute. This decreased blink rate can result in dry eyes, a simple yet key contributor to the discomfort associated with digital eye strain.

Digital Eye Strain Symptoms

Digital eye strain can be hard to pinpoint if you’re not paying attention to when it occurs. If you spend most of your day at a computer, you may feel like your eyes are always tired without recognizing the connection to the screen.

Watch for these symptoms after prolonged screen use, and notice if they fade after you step away from the computer:

  • Fatigue
  • Watery eyes
  • Blurriness
  • Double vision
  • Headaches
  • Dry eyes
  • Redness
  • Irritation

Eye strain can cause you to subconsciously adopt unnatural neck and shoulder positioning to compensate for poor visibility or glare. Over time, this sustained awkward posture can cause neck and shoulder pain despite the root cause being visual.

Effect on Digital Workers

Sitting in front of a computer for hours is the new norm for a large part of the working population. But the implications go beyond workplace discomfort—it can affect productivity and overall well-being. For digital workers, prolonged digital eye strain can lead to decreased efficiency, errors, and a loss of motivation.

Eye strain can disrupt workflow as you deal with discomfort, an inability to focus, and the need for more frequent breaks. These interruptions make maintaining a productive and clear-headed state difficult throughout the day.

How to Manage Digital Eye Strain

Proactive management is one of the best defences against digital eye strain. While avoiding every screen that gives you a headache would be nice, that’s not always possible. Instead, here are some practical measures to incorporate into your daily routine:

  • Be conscious of your eyes while working on a computer by reminding yourself to blink.
  • Use the right lighting. Try a mix of natural and artificial light to prevent glare and harsh contrasts.
  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule. For every 20 minutes of screen time, look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
  • Properly position your monitor, along with chair and desk height adjustments. The goal is to have your screen positioned at arm’s length with the top at or slightly below eye level.

Glasses That Help with Eye Strain

Certain glasses can help reduce or eliminate eye strain, depending on the cause. Computer glasses can help you focus on screens more easily with anti-reflective coatings to reduce glare. Neurolenses are a popular type of lens design that can address strain caused by eye misalignment which is amplified from the increased demands at near. Even people with perfect vision may experience misalignment when working at a computer.

Additionally, an optometrist can suggest types of home and office lenses to suit your daily grind, while blue-light-blocking lenses can reduce harsh light from screens and even help you get to sleep on time.

While digital eye strain isn’t typically dangerous, vision issues can worsen symptoms. Regular comprehensive eye exams help us detect and correct vision problems early, reducing the added strain they put on your eyes.

Everyone can be affected by digital eye strain, no matter their age. Since excessive screen time is a direct contributor to how long digital eye strain lasts, regulate your kids’ screen time and encourage them to take breaks. Not only can this save them from strain, but it could also help reduce their risk for myopia.

Close-up of a woman undergoing a slit-lamp exam

Protecting Your Vision in the Digital Age

Digital eye strain is a modern malady with real and tangible effects. However, managing our screen time and taking the necessary steps to protect our eyes can lead to a more comfortable time online.

Screens aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Collingwood Optometry can help guide you towards a clearer and more comfortable digital future. If you’re concerned about your digital eye strain or would like to learn more about the best practices for digital eye health, contact us to book your appointment.

Written by Collingwood Optometry

Collingwood Optometry is proud to have served the Collingwood community for over 55 years. We care for the community’s vision and are determined to give the appropriate and unique treatment needed. We prioritize knowledge, education, and a commitment to making continuous strides to improve our technology and techniques.

Through our blogs, we intend to provide open guidance to help our readers better understand their eye problems.

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