What is Computer Vision Syndrome and How to Avoid It


What is Computer Vision Syndrome and How to Avoid It

If you work at a computer, it’s highly likely you’ve experienced some level of strain on your eyes. Reading text on a screen is different to reading text on paper, as the letters are less defined and require us to focus more to be able to read them. This can result in problems with our eyes, which is known as computer vision syndrome.

What is computer vision syndrome?

Computer vision syndrome, also known as digital eye strain, refers to a condition that can occur when people spend a lot of time looking at computer screens. It’s typically not a serious condition, but it can cause significant discomfort in the individual, and result in disruption to their day-to-day life.



What are the symptoms of computer vision syndrome?

The symptoms of computer vision syndrome can include:

  • Dry eyes
  • Itchy, irritated eyes
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Headaches
  • Neck, shoulder, and back pain

Often these symptoms are only temporary, but they can sometimes go on for extended periods.

What causes computer vision syndrome?

Computer vision syndrome is caused by the prolonged use of screens, including smartphones, tablets, e-readers, laptops, and computer monitors. Eye strain and fatigue occur when the eyes have to repeatedly focus and refocus on the screens, which can be made worse when you are using multiple screens at once as the eyes will have to be constantly moving.

The settings on your screen can also cause computer vision syndrome. If your contrast and brightness aren’t set correctly, it can make it more difficult for your eyes to read what’s on the screen, and so will need to work harder to focus. This can result in digital eye strain.

Not blinking enough can contribute to computer vision syndrome. Normally, we will blink around 15 times a minute, but when we use a computer, this decreases to around 5-7 times a minute. Blinking helps to keep your eyes lubricated – when we don’t blink enough, our eyes can get dry and irritated.

How to avoid computer vision syndrome

Whilst computer vision syndrome can be common, there is plenty you can do to help avoid the issue.



Ensure your workstation is set up correctly

One of the most important steps to preventing computer vision syndrome is ensuring your workstation has thoughtful ergonomic design. Your screen will need to be correctly positioned to avoid straining your eyes, ideally around an arm’s length away from you and with the top of the screen at or just below eye level. If your screen is too close or too far away, both can result in eye strain. If you find you have to slouch to see your computer properly, a monitor riser or adjustable laptop riser can be helpful in lifting your screens to a comfortable height.

Your screen will need to be at the correct height whether you’re sitting or standing. If you use a standing desk converter and alternate between sitting and standing, you’ll need to ensure the screen is still at eye level when you switch.

If you use printed materials alongside a screen, these should also be correctly positioned. They should be at a similar distance to your screen, and you should use a document stand to hold documents, so you don’t have to slouch or bend to read them. This will help to reduce eye strain.

Take plenty of breaks

Common advice to avoid eye strain when using a computer is to follow the 20-20-20 rule. This means that every 20 minutes you should look at something that’s around 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This can help to stretch your eyes and avoid straining them from looking at something too close for too long.



Taking a few minutes away from your desk can help to avoid computer vision syndrome, so look for opportunities when you can take a walk. This might be to go speak to a colleague, make a drink, or just take a quick walk around the building or home. You can also time for tasks that don’t involve looking at a screen, such as filing or shredding, as this will also help to avoid eye strain.

Make sure your office lighting is correct

Bad office lighting can affect your eyes and cause computer vision syndrome, especially if there is glare on your screen. Ideally, you should be able to work in a room with a number of different light sources. Often, it’s overhead lights that can cause screen glare, so it can be helpful to include a lamp on or around your workstation to provide extra lighting if you need to switch off or dim overhead lights.

You should make sure your workstation and screens are positioned so they don’t have glare from natural light too. Whilst natural light can be beneficial when we’re working, if it’s too strong and/or hitting the screens in the wrong place, it can result in eye strain. Ideally, you should be able to set up your workstation so glare from the sun doesn’t affect you, but another option is to just close the blinds or curtains. In this case, you should ensure there are plenty of alternate light sources, so you have plenty of lighting in the room. 

Adjust your screen settings

Your screen will have a number of different settings that you can adjust so you can work comfortably. This will include the brightness of the screen, the contrast level, and also the size of the font. Each person may have different preferred levels, but typically the screen should be as bright as the room you’re working in, and the contrast should be at around 60% to 70%.

If you find you’re struggling to read the words on your screen, you can often zoom in to make them bigger. You can do this on most web browsers as well as other apps such as word processing and spreadsheets. Ideally, you should be reading dark text on a light background, as this is the easiest way to read for most people.



Use prescription lenses, if necessary

If you wear glasses, you should ensure your prescription is up to date and you’re using the right type of glasses when you work with screens. If you don’t usually wear glasses but you find your eyes feel strained after long periods of working at a screen, consider having an eye test. It may be that your vision has changed, and you now require glasses.

Even if you think your vision is fine for other activities such as reading, an eye test can still be beneficial. It could rule out the need for prescription lenses, so you know that your eye strain will be due to other factors. Your optician might suggest that you get computer reading glasses, which have a special tint on the lenses to reduce glare and so can reduce eye strain.


Leitz has a huge range of ergonomic office equipment to support productive and comfortable working both at home and in the office.

You can read more about the benefits of office ergonomics for healthy working below:

What Are The Benefits of Sit Stand Desks?

How to Set Up The Perfect Ergonomic Workstation

Ergonomics for Office Workers – Employer Considerations