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Digital Eye Strain

Part 2 of a 6-part series on optical health

Published online: May 27, 2019 Articles, Healthy Vision Series with Dr. Dan Nielson Dr. Dan Nielson
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Most of our world now revolves around looking at computers, tablets, cell phones, etc. throughout the day for long periods of time, hey, I am guilty too. But, guess what? Our eyes are not designed to look at things up close for such extended periods of time.

You would be surprised at how many patients tell me they can’t see things in the distance as well as they used to on their way home from work. This is because our eyes are designed to be relaxed when they look far away and when we look up close it’s like flexing your muscles – if you hold them tight for too long it takes a while to relax them.

Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), also called digital eye strain, is caused by focusing on computers and other digital devices that are 1 to 3 feet away for extended periods of time. Up to 83% of the population 25 years old and older experience some form of CVS. This is a hidden epidemic!

But technology is also impacting our kids –an article on states, “According to Common Sense Media, children under age 8 now spend more than two hours a day with screen media. For 8- to 10-year-olds, screen time triples to six hours a day. And it's not unusual for kids in middle school and high school to spend up to nine hours per day looking at digital displays.”

From a survey done, I found schools in Idaho Falls are using Chromebooks and other digital devices, including smart phones. While these devices can greatly enhance learning, they may actually hinder learning for some children. Children with eye movement, tracking and eye coordination problems may have difficulty understanding the information presented with these devices. But, because children don’t always know how they are supposed to see, their underlying vision problems can remain undetected and unreported. As a result, in many cases these vision problems are mistaken for attention and learning problems.

The most common reported symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome include:

  • Dry eyes
  • Eyestrain
  • Headaches
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Neck pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of productivity
  • Decreased vision at night

If you or your child experience two or more of these symptoms on a regular basis, you may be suffering from computer vision syndrome or digital eye strain. Whether you have any of these symptoms or work on your computer for more than 3 hours total per day, you should see an Optometrist. Most optometrists in the Idaho Falls area provide special computer glasses.

If the words on the screen seem to move, double up or you have trouble following along a line of text, be sure to see a developmental optometrist. To find a developmental optometrist near you, visit


Be sure to use the 20:20:20 rule and take a break every 20 minutes and look 20 feet away for 20 seconds to prevent vision problems. Be sure to encourage your kids to do the same.

Parents should watch for:

  • Squinting
  • Frequent eye rubbing, blinking, or red eyes
  • Head turns or avoidance of the computer
  • Close working distance
  • Special computer glasses can also help your productivity and performance when working on the computer. Ask your optometrist about lenses that help reduce the harmful effects of computer vision syndrome.

Dr. Dan Nielson provides specialized services in the diagnosis and treatment of vision problems that interfere with reading and learning and also does orthokeratology. For more information visit his website:


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