tired woman holding tablet

—Erin B., University of Victoria, British Columbia

Phones, laptops, tablets, you name it—screens have pretty much taken over our lives. Before they were everywhere, humans used to take breaks; for example, students would get out of their chairs to look something up at the library. But now Google is just too accessible and we don’t need to get up anymore.

What’s the problem here?

The condition that results from reading visual display devices for too long is called asthenopia or computer vision syndrome.

The symptoms include: eye strain, headache, blurred vision, dry eyes, and neck and shoulder pain. This is a consequence of eye-muscle strain, decreased blinking, poor posture, uncorrected vision, and bad ergonomics (how our equipment and workplace are designed).

How can we manage these symptoms?

  • The “20-20-20” rule suggests that for every 20 minutes you look at a screen (e.g., studying on a computer), you should look at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
  • Use lubricating eye drops to decrease the discomfort of dry eyes.
  • Make sure that your vision is corrected. If you have been prescribed glasses or contacts, wear them.
  • Some studies suggest doing eye exercises. You should consult an optometrist to find out about these.
  • If you’re using a desktop, the screen should be 50–60 centimetres away from your face to decrease strain in your eyes, neck, and shoulders.
  • Try to notice your posture as you use your computer, to help limit neck and back strain.