When you spend long hours working on the computer, reading a book, or driving, you may experience eye strain.

What Causes Eye Strain?

Focusing on a task for long periods without blinking can leave your eyes feeling dry and tired. Eye strain from looking at a computer is no different from strain caused by driving or reading for hours. Sitting near a vent that is blowing hot or cold air in your face can quickly dry out your eyes.

An incorrect prescription for glasses or contacts can cause blurriness, worsening the sensation of eye strain. Working in an environment that is too bright or not bright enough can also tire the eyes.

In addition, poor posture can cause neck, shoulder, and back pain, which can add to the discomfort we feel.

Tips for Office Workers

Simple adjustments to your workspace can stave off eye strain from prolonged computer use. Keep a bottle of artificial tears handy and place a humidifier next to your desk. Adjust your computer screen so your eyes gaze slightly downward. If you have trouble seeing your screen, ask your doctor about computer glasses. These progressive lenses are specifically designed for focusing on computer screens, which are usually positioned about 20 to 26 inches away from the face.

And don’t forget to follow the “20-20-20” rule: Every 20 minutes, shift your eyes to look at an object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.

Eye Comfort in the Driver’s Seat

Here are some tips to reduce eye strain while driving:

  • Adjust air vents so they’re not blowing directly into your face
  • Use artificial tears whenever your eyes feel dry
  • Wear your glasses or contacts
  • Use sunglasses when needed

When Should I See an Ophthalmologist?

If you’re still experiencing eye strain after adjusting your workspace, your ophthalmologist can help. At your visit, describe your eye symptoms, including when they happen and how long they last. Your doctor will check for dry eye, examine your eye muscles, and explore whether you need a new prescription for eyeglasses or contacts.

Adapted from “Eye Strain: How to Prevent Tired Eyes” by Celia Vimont, Reviewed by Laurie Gray Barber, MD, Feb. 26, 2020