What Is Computer Vision Syndrome?

computer vision syndrome

Are you struggling with painful, uncomfortable, or tired eyes? Then it may not come as a surprise that these symptoms are rooted in prolonged use of digital devices like laptops, phones, or tablets. But what you may not know is that collectively, these symptoms can contribute to a condition known as computer vision syndrome (CVS) or digital eye strain.

Once you understand what computer vision syndrome is, it’s much easier to protect your eye health and take the necessary precautions to prevent the onset of this condition in the first place. In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about CVS. That way, you’ll have much more peace of mind the next time you’re sitting in front of a computer or using your phone.

Understanding Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS)

Rather than referring to a discrete condition, computer vision syndrome is a collection of eye-related symptoms and discomfort. It’s also referred to as digital eye strain since the symptoms usually come from prolonged use of digital devices like computers, tablets, e-readers, and phones. This is mainly because of the blue light that these devices emit.

Similar to how repetitive typing and overusing your mouse can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, the repetitive tasks you use your digital device for can lead to CVS. This is particularly true for reading or focusing on a computer or digital screen.

Both of these conditions stem from prolonged computer use and the strain it can cause. And, they can both affect your productivity and comfort when you’re using your electronics.

Symptoms Of Computer Vision Syndrome

The eye symptoms of CVS mainly relate to a prolonged focus on computer screens. Still, there may be symptoms linked to other parts of your body due to prolonged sitting or the way in which you use your devices.

Although CVS symptoms can be uncomfortable, they’re not likely to cause any long-term damage to your vision. Still, they can impact your daily life and overall well-being if the symptoms are left untreated.

The most common symptoms of CVS include:

Eye discomfort

Eye discomfort is the most common symptom of CVS and can manifest in different ways.

  • Dry eyes: This is typically caused by blinking less when looking at a digital screen. Luckily, artificial tears or certain types of eyedrops can help keep your eyes moistened when you need to use your devices for long periods.
  • Watery eyes: Your eyes can start to water as a way to correct the ‘dry eyes’ sensation. This may make it difficult to see and can be uncomfortable if it persists.
  • Burning sensations: The blue light from your digital device can irritate your eyes, leading to a burning sensation in or around them.
  • Itching: Because of the discomfort, your eyes may feel itchy. Your natural response will be to rub them, but this can cause even more discomfort. And, if you do it too often, it can even cause skin irritation around your eyes or pain when you’re pressing too hard.
  • Foreign body sensations: As a result of the dryness and irritation, it can sometimes feel like you have something in your eye. This is incredibly uncomfortable, and can also lead to eye rubbing.

Visual symptoms

When your eyes are feeling tired or have been focused on a digital screen for too long, the resulting CVS can cause some less-than-pleasant disturbances to your vision. These may include:

  • Blurred vision: Although looking away from your screen can help you rest your eyes, repeatedly shifting your focus from your screen to other objects (or even between objects on your screen) can cause blurred vision. While this is less common than a lot of the other visual symptoms, it can potentially last for a while if you continue to use your device.
  • Double vision: In some cases, you may find that you have double vision. This means that you’re seeing two images instead of one, and is typically a result of excessive eye strain.
  • Eye strain: Continuous screen use can leave your eyes feeling tired or achy because your eyes have been focused or straining to focus while you use your computer. This is known as eye strain. When you’re experiencing eye strain, it’s important to take some time away from your screen and allow your eyes to relax.


Eye fatigue, eye strain, discomfort, or any other vision-related problems from excessive device use can sometimes lead to headaches. If you’re already prone to headaches, this may put you at risk of developing migraines.

As a result, you may be less productive and your overall well-being may be significantly impacted. After all, there’s nothing worse than dealing with a headache when you have to work or focus on a specific task.

Although you can’t always avoid using your devices, certain products like migraine glasses can help lessen the chance of developing a pounding headache.

Musculoskeletal symptoms

Although these are usually secondary symptoms, CVS can lead to pain or discomfort in other parts of your body as well. Usually, this is caused by poor posture or sitting for extended periods and can include:

  • Neck pain: This is a result of holding your neck in an awkward position when you’re using your devices. It’s also a common cause of headaches, since your neck muscles may be tighter and allow for less blood flow around your head.
  • Shoulder pain: You may also experience shoulder pain if you’re hunched over at your desk or if you hold your arms in an uncomfortable position when you’re using a phone or tablet.
  • Back pain: It’s important to be mindful of your posture when you’re using your devices. Hunching or sitting with poor posture can cause intense back pain – particularly in your upper back.

How To Prevent Computer Vision Syndrome

There are several ways to reduce digital eye strain. For example, you can practice eye exercises, keep your devices at least 25 inches away from your face, or follow the 20-20-20 rule.

This rule is great for giving your eyes a much-needed break when you can’t avoid using devices. All you need to do is look away from your computer screen every 20 minutes. You should ideally be looking at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds to allow your eyes to relax.

But perhaps the easiest way to reduce eye strain is to protect your eyes from blue light. Or, at least, to overexposure to this kind of light. You can do this in a number of ways, including:

  • Digital screen filters: Screen filters can help to block some blue light from penetrating your eyes. In turn, this lessens the chances of eye strain or discomfort. Using these filters can also be incredibly helpful when you combine them with other methods of blocking blue light, such as wearing blue light glasses.
  • Adjusting settings: Most computer users already know that their devices come with a ‘Night Mode’. And now is the time to take advantage of that! Try using this mode to reduce the strain on your eyes. You should also decrease the brightness on your digital screen and increase the contrast to help you focus.
  • Avoid low-light rooms: When you’re using your device in a dark or dimly lit room, it’s easy for your eyes to become tired or strained. This is because they’re placing more focus on your screen and having to adjust to the contrast between the light on your device and the absence of light in the room.
  • Wear blue filter glasses: Blue light glasses can help block out the blue light that your digital screens give off. Blue light is one of the main causes of eye discomfort and strain and contributes to the onset of CVS. So, by filtering some of this light out, you can better protect your eyes. This is one of the easiest ways to prevent CVS!
  • Limit screen time: If possible, you may want to limit the amount of time you spend in front of a digital screen – especially at night. The blue light that comes off of your devices can affect your melatonin levels, which is what helps to regulate your sleep. So, not only will this help your eyes to rest, but it can also be beneficial for your sleep patterns and the quality of your sleep in general.


Can children develop computer vision syndrome?

Yes, children can develop computer vision syndrome if exposed to digital screens for too long. This may be a problem if your child needs to use their devices for school work or other educational activities where screen time simply can’t be limited.

The best way to reduce their risk of developing CVS is to have them use blue light glasses for kids or limit their digital device usage outside of when it’s absolutely necessary.

How often should I take breaks from staring at a computer screen to prevent CVS?

A good rule of thumb when staring at a computer or digital screen is to take breaks every 20 minutes – even if it’s just for a few seconds! If you need to use your device for a long period of time, you should also add a longer break every hour or so.

For instance, you should try to look away from your screen every 20 minutes for at least 20 seconds. After an hour, take a longer break to stretch your body and rest your eyes.

Where else does blue light come from?

Interestingly, harmful blue light can come from other sources besides digital screens. In fact, even the sun emits a certain amount of blue light!

If you’re already suffering from digital eye strain or eye discomfort, you’re going to want to take precautions to protect your eyes – even when you aren’t in front of your computer! For example, wearing sunglasses for sensitive eyes can help lessen visual discomfort when you’re in the sun.

Final Thoughts

Computer vision syndrome can be tricky to manage – especially when using digital devices is unavoidable. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to reduce the risk factors associated with CVS.

Just remember: Take frequent breaks from your screen, grab some blue light glasses, use medications like eye drops (if necessary), and limit your screen time where you can. That way, you’ll be just fine.