The number of Australians with eye health problems has increased since 2020.

An Optometry Australia report found that more people are experiencing issues such as dry, irritated or watery eyes, itchy eyes, and increased sensitivity to light.

Impact of the Pandemic

The pandemic has led to an increase in the use of screens and the impact of that has seen 88% of respondents had experienced sore or tired eyes when using a computer or tablet for work. This is a 9% from 2020.

What is Computer Vision Syndrome?

Computer Vision Syndrome also known as Digital Eye Strain is when you experience eye problems as a result of computer use.

Research suggests that those who spend most of their day in front of a screen have at least a 50% chance of developing digital eye strain.

Digital Eye Strain and Children

Children’s eyes also experience strain from screen use. Many spend long periods looking at a computer screen while at school, then do homework in front of a screen, and either play games using a screen or watch TV.

Consequences of screen use

Most people know that too much screen time can affect their vision – but a large proportion of Australians – 68% – report spending four hours or more every day using a device with a screen.

The impact of the increased use of screens is compounded by the fact that most people don’t take breaks from their screen. In fact 25% report ‘never’ taking a break.

Which is why many people experience sore or tired eyes as a result of their increased time spent in front of a screen, that includes the use of a mobile phone screen.

Why screens are bad for our eyes

Our eyes weren’t built for spending long periods of time looking at detailed images that are the same distance from our face, especially when they are repeatedly performing the same task for hours, and often without a break.

Our eyes work best with images that have well-defined edges with good contrast between the background and any letters and symbols, like the images found in books and magazines.

Your eyes react very differently to electronically generated characters on a screen as they are made up of many small dots (pixels).  Pixels are the result of an electron beam striking the phosphor-coated rear surface of the screen. Each pixel is brightest in the center, with the brightness decreasing toward the outer edges. This image is much harder for the eyes to adjust to.

If you already have uncorrected vision problems or are wearing the wrong prescription glasses or contact lenses, this can make problems even worse.

To lessen the effect of Digital Eye Strain

Sit properly in front of your computer, your posture and distance from the screen can help to reduce eye strain.

Adjust the light in your work area (or where you are looking at a screen) so that the light in the room is about the same as the amount of light coming from your screen. Screens that are a lot brighter or darker than where you are can strain your eyes much faster than if the light is roughly equal.

Practice the 20-20-20 rule. Take a break every 20 minutes and look at an object about 20 metres away for at least 20 seconds. This gives your eyes a break from focusing just on the bright screen that is close to you.

Contact your optometrist to make sure your prescription is correct for using screens, plus they can prescribe glasses with special coatings to reduce your symptoms.