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How Long Can Eye Strain Last?

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A blonde woman takes off her glasses and rubs the bridge of her nose between her eyes due to eye strain

A sometimes unfortunate side effect of this technology age is how much time we spend using digital screens, such as mobile phones or computers. Digital eye strain is an occasional reality for many people.

There isn’t a one-size answer for the symptoms one may experience or how long they’ll last. Sometimes a short break is enough to get relief. Other times, uncomfortable symptoms that often accompany eye strain, like tense shoulders or sore neck, could take a few days to resolve completely.

Your eye doctor can review your eyestrain symptoms with you and recommend an appropriate treatment. In minor cases, taking periodic breaks may be enough. But by considering your overall eye health, your optometrist can account for other factors, such as an inaccurate prescription or an uncorrected refractive error, that could increase your chances of experiencing eye strain.

Digital Eye Strain Overview

Digital eye strain, also known as computer vision syndrome, is a condition that typically occurs in people who spend extended periods using digital screens. Up to 90% of electronic device users report having experienced some level of eye strain symptoms.

At its root, digital eye strain occurs when your eyes cannot meet the demand of digital screens. Other things, such as uncorrected vision problems or the work environment, can all increase the speed and severity of your eyes.’

Symptoms of Digital Eye Strain

Although digital eye strain gets its name mainly due to a primary cause of the symptoms, it’s important to note that some symptoms are unrelated to the eyes or vision. For example, headaches or neck and shoulder pain all commonly accompany eye-related symptoms. Blurry vision and dry eyes are the two most common digital eye strain symptoms.

How Long Can Eye Strain Last?

There isn’t a simple answer or enough studies done on how long eye strain symptoms can last. Due to the nature of the condition, the length of your symptoms depends mainly on the cause. But once more severe symptoms like a sore neck or back develop, that could lengthen the effects of the condition.

A woman sitting on a couch with a computer on her lap, and she is rubbing her eyes due to eye strain

Factors That Can Affect Symptoms

Digital screen use is ultimately the root of digital eye strain. This is often related to improper viewing distances or angles, blinking less frequently, or not adjusting text and background contrast levels to comfortable levels.

Other factors that could affect the severity or length of your symptoms include:

  • Reading small print or focusing on details without resting your eyes.
  • Exposure to bright lights or improperly placed lighting that causes glare on screens. In contrast, not enough light can also contribute to your strained eyes.
  • Underlying eye or vision issues, such as uncorrected astigmatism or refractive error like myopia.
  • General fatigue or stress can contribute to developing digital eye strain.
  • Environmental factors, such as dry, smoky, or dusty air.

Treating Digital Eye Strain

There isn’t a one-size answer for treating digital eye strain. Symptom relief is often the most effective approach. But there are a few ways you may get that relief:

Underlying Health Treatment

If you’re experiencing digital eye strain symptoms, your eye doctor will likely recommend a comprehensive eye exam. This way, they can determine if uncorrected vision problems contribute to your eye strain.

And if you do need glasses or contact lenses, there may be lens options that could help prevent or minimize eye strain that you can discuss with your optometrist.

Environment Adjustments

Turning off air conditioning or stopping fans in an office setting can help improve air quality and help minimize eye strain. Also, adjust the lights in the room to increase comfort and decrease screen glare.

Workspace Adjustments

If you are sitting at a desk, sit straight with your feet flat on the ground. You’ll want your computer screen approximately an arm’s length away from your eyes. Additionally, you may notice fewer dry eye symptoms if you have the screen slightly below eye level.

Spending extended time looking at a screen or focusing on small text or objects can significantly contribute to digital eye strain. Practicing the 20-20-20 rule is an excellent way of allowing your eyes to rest. Every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds and look at an object 20 feet away in your environment.

Discuss Your Symptoms With Dr. Bittel Optometry

Taking a break and resting your eyes is often enough to relieve uncomfortable symptoms. Sometimes the issue goes deeper than tired eyes, tough. If you’re searching for relief, contact our office today.

The helpful team at Dr. Bittel Optometry can answer your questions and book you in to see Dr. Bittel, OD.

Dr. Charlie Bittel

Written by Dr. Charles F. Bittel, III

Dr. Charles F. Bittel III (also known as Dr. Charlie or Dr. Bittel Junior) was introduced to the world of optometry in 1983 at his father’s graduation from optometry school. He is a graduate of Servite High School in Anaheim and received his degree in psychology from UCLA. Dr. Charlie Bittel graduated summa cum laude from the Southern California College of Optometry in 2006 and was the class salutatorian.

Dr. Charlie Bittel, owner and primary optometrist at Charles Bittel III, OD, enjoys all aspects of family eye care and is happy to see patients anywhere from 4–104 years old. In the last few years, Dr. Charlie has developed a passion in dry eye disease and myopia management and has embraced the challenge of incorporating these areas of interest into his family practice. He has also had the honor of being a part of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care’s Professional Affairs Consulting team and Speaker’s Bureau. And, most recently, he has partnered with their LipiFlow team to help fellow optometrists incorporate dry eye clinics into their practices.

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