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  • Writer's pictureEsna van der Walt

Back to school? Don’t let computer vision syndrome get you down

Updated: Mar 7, 2023

As you’re returning to school and work in 2023, don’t forget that your eyes will also be working harder. Spending too much time in front of your computer, phone or tablet screen may put you at risk of developing a condition called “computer vision syndrome” or “digital eye strain”.

Luckily computer vision syndrome is not permanent and totally preventable and treatable. By addressing any vision problems and making simple tweaks to your screen-viewing behaviour, you can help your eyes see comfortably and clearly again.

What is computer vision syndrome?

Computer vision syndrome is a common condition that includes a collection of eye and vision problems caused by the prolonged use of digital devices such as computers, smart phones and tablets. Symptoms of computer vision syndrome include dry or watery eyes, blurry vision, eye strain and fatigue, as well as headaches.

Tips to treat or prevent digital eye strain:

1. Keep the right posture and distance

First, make sure that you are seated properly with the right posture. Your computer or phone should be at eye-level and not too close to your eyes – at a distance of at least 18 to 24 inches (45 – 60 cm).

2. Adjust the font and screen brightness

Adjust the font to a comfortable size to reduce eye strain and minimise glare from your screen by adjusting its brightness so that it is similar to the light around you. The blue light emitted from your computer or phone can also disrupt your sleep cycle which adds to tired, dry eyes. It would be best to put away your digital devices about an hour before going to bed.

3. Give your eyes a break

Our eyes were not designed to focus on one spot for extended periods of time. Give your eyes a break by following the 20-20-20 rule – rest your eyes for at least 20 seconds every 20 minutes by looking at something 20 feet (6 m) away.

4. Lubricate your eyes

We tend to blink less when we’re staring at a screen, which dries out our eyes. Lubricate your eyes by blinking regularly or using eye drops – all of which replenish your tears and prevent or relieve eye dryness and eye strain.

5. Avoid direct wind

Prevent dry eyes caused by computer vision syndrome further by avoiding any direct wind on your face from a fan or air-conditioner.

Other causes of dry eyes

Apart from extended computer or phone screen time, a condition called “dry eyes” can also be caused by a dry environment, age factors, hormonal changes or side-effects of certain diseases or medications. Symptoms of dry eyes include:

• Stinging or burning

• Excessive tearing

• Scratchiness and redness

• Sensitivity to light

• Problems wearing contact lenses.

While you can follow some of the lifestyle tips above to help alleviate the effects of dry eyes, a visit to your eye doctor for a comprehensive eye examination would be the best way to determine the cause of your dry eyes and find the ideal solution to treat, relieve and prevent the symptoms.

Contact us:

Tomlinson Optometrists is a family-oriented behavioural optometry practice in Cape Town. We help you live your best life with clear sight, efficient vision and eye health through vision assessments, screenings and eye exams, behavioural optometry, vision therapy and dyslexia assessments. Contact us on tel 021 797 7291, WhatsApp 066 327 0560 or email

You are welcome to book an appointment online:

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