Sign up for Our Newsletter

Sign up below to get new article notifications, important news & exclusive deals from Keeler.

A Guide to Diagnosing Digital Eye Strain

Click to Play Audio Version of this Content
Voiced by Amazon Polly

Did you know digital eye strain or computer vision syndrome affects a sobering 65% of American adults according to a 2015 Survey conducted by the Vision Council. Digital eye strain is the momentary discomfort associated with using a digital device for two or more hours, such as: 

  • A smartphone, 
  • A tablet, 
  • TV,
  • Laptop,
  • E-reader,
  • Gaming system,
  • Desktop computer, or
  • Other digital devices. 

Simply put, an array of digital devices can cause digital eye strain, especially when the individual switches repeatedly from one device to another or uses them simultaneously. Continue reading to learn more about digital eye strain and how you can diagnose digital eye strain via exams and patient conversations. 

What Causes & Contributes to Digital Eye Strain? 

Digital eye strain is typically not caused by a single behavior or isolated event. In fact, discomfort and irritation may be caused by several issues, including the following: 

Small Print and Pixelated Images Can Cause Eye Strain

Digital devices like smartphones and tablets often utilize pixelated images and small print, which can be hard to read. As a result, it's easier for people to strain their eyes and squint to focus on the content. Digital eye strain can also by:

  • The improper use of devices,
  • Holding the device at the wrong angle,
  • Holding the digital device to far from the eyes

Blue Light Can Contribute to Digital Eye Strain

High-energy visible (HEV) light or blue light is another cause of digital eye strain. Blue light is emitted by devices and causes eye strain to increase more than other colors, which may have a longer wavelength. Blue light can also contribute to other vision problems like age-related macular degeneration as well as cataracts

Prescription Eyewear Can Exacerbate Digital Eye Strain

In addition, digital eye strain can be worsened on adults who wear prescription eyeglasses and/or contact lenses because the corrective lenses are not specifically intended for viewing the mid-distance range of electronics and computers. 

Symptoms Commonly Used to Diagnose Digital Eye Strain

One of the most common ways to diagnose digital eye strain is based on the symptoms reported by the patient. If the patient spends at least two hours each day in front of a computer screen, it's highly likely they'll suffer from some degree of digital eye strain. Some of the most common symptoms used to diagnose digital eye strain include:

  • Burning eyes
  • Double vision
  • Headaches
  • Tired Eyes
  • Loss of focus
  • Eye twitching
  • Red eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Neck and shoulder pain

Questions Doctors Can Ask to Help Diagnose Digital Eye Strain

In all actuality, diagnosing digital eye strain can be pretty straightforward. However, it's imperative to conduct a thorough examination to prevent misdiagnosis. Here are a few questions you can ask your patients to help you diagnose digital eye strain. 

  1. Can you explain the symptoms you're experiencing? 
  2. How long ago did you begin noticing these symptoms?
  3. Have your symptoms worsened, improved, or stayed the same over time? 
  4. Can you rate your level of discomfort on a scale of 1 to 10?
  5. What do you do for work? Is a computer involved? If you use a computer, how is it set up? 
  6. In total, how much time would you estimate you spend on all of your digital devices? 
  7. Has anything in particular you've noticed trigger your symptoms?
  8. Does anything in particular help relieve your symptoms? 

Alleviate Digital Eye Strain with Practical & Occupational Adjustments 

The Vision Council reports a surprising 69% of American adults are unaware eyewear exists for digital device usage that could protect their eyes from long-term and short-term digital eye strain. At the same time, 87%  report they didn't know contact solutions were available. 

Offering your patients who have extensive occupational digital device usage the option to use protective digital eye strain eyewear may be a viable solution to help alleviate the symptoms. In addition to eyewear solutions, your patients can make a number of lifestyle and habitual changes to reduce the impact of digital eye strain: 

  • Increase the size of text. Making the text larger on devices to best define on-screen content
  • Reduce glare and check lighting. Reduce computer screen glare by eliminating overhead lighting. 
  • View at a safe distance. Maintain at least an arm's distance away from the computer screen for proper viewing distance.
  • Take eye breaks. Ensure they take occasional breaks to reset their eyes by looking away from the digital screen. One excellent solution is the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look at something that is 20 feet away for a minimum of 20 seconds.
  • Use OTC artificial tears. Over-the-counter artificial tears can help relieve and even prevent dry eyes.
  • Improve indoor air quality. By improving the indoor air quality of a space, it can help reduce and prevent dry eyes.
  • Adjust the monitor. Make sure the monitor is positioned directly in front of the individual at eye level. 

Contact Keeler Today

At Keeler Ophthalmic Instruments, we are a leader in the industry offering a range of diagnostic equipment to help you more efficiently diagnose and treat digital eye strain. Contact Keeler Ophthalmic Instruments today.

About the Author Eugene VanArsdale

Eugene is the Director of Marketing Communications at Keeler Instruments. He has been with Keeler since 1982 and is co-holder of two patents for the company. Eugene has a true passion for the eye care industry and has dedicated himself to understanding the ins and outs of the optometric and ophthalmic equipment market.