Health Team

Computer screen hurting your eyes? Try 20-20-20 rule

Posted October 1, 2010 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated October 1, 2010 6:30 p.m. EDT

People who stare at computer screens and smart phones all day may experience tired, itchy eyes. They might also have a condition called Computer Vision Syndrome, but health experts say there are simple ways to make tired eyes feel better.

Peter Johnson spends about five hours a day at his computer, and all those hours staring at the monitor began taking its toll.

“I found that my eyes got very tired from it, (and) the screen began to blur,” he said.

Symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome include eye fatigue, eye strain, blurred vision, headaches, dry, itchy eyes, burning and tearing.

Avoiding screens altogether might not be possible, but the 20-20-20 rule might help. Every 20 minutes, look up and focus on something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds to allow your eyes to rest.

“It will allow the muscles to relax and take the strain off the muscles. You’ll end up feeling a lot better at the end of the day,” said Dr. Christopher Starr, director of refractive surgery at Weill Cornell Medical Center.

When at the computer, doctors say, people blink about 60 percent less than normal, which dries out the eyes. They recommend using eye drops or simply blinking more.

“It sounds silly. It sounds like something we should be doing subconsciously, but when you’re on the computer and you’re working, the blink rate goes down substantially,” Starr said.

Johnson said he found relief using reading glasses designed specifically for the distance between his eyes and the screen.

“It was stunning how quickly that strain disappeared,” he said.

Another tip is to check the lights in the room to make sure there's no glare coming off the screen. Glare can make people’s vision blurry, causing them to strain harder to see what's on the monitor.