Digital Eye Fatigue

Are you reading this article on a computer, tablet, or worse still, a smartphone? Do you find your eyes getting sore after a while, and feel like having a shut eye after a short duration of reading? You could very well be experiencing a 21st century phenomenon known as Digital Eye Fatigue, commonly also known as Computer Vision Syndrome.​

A study had found that nearly 60% of us are looking at digital screens for 5+ hours per day! [2]


Other common symptoms for this condition include:

  • Headaches (especially starting around the eyes, temple or forehead region)

  • Pressure feeling just behind or within the eyes

  • Blurry vision after prolonged reading 

  • Burning feeling in eyes

  • Dry or watery eyes

  • Migraines*

  • Difficulty falling asleep at the end of a screen-intensive day

This can happen even if you are under 40 years of age, and is now becoming more common due to the increasingly digital world we live in. A study performed in 2015 reported that two-thirds of New Zealanders own 3 or more digital devices, and more than half of us (59%) prefer using the smaller-screened smartphone over other more vision-friendly devices. [1]

So what causes Digital Eyestrain?

Imagine holding your arms stretched out straight in front of you, for 2-3 hours in a row and a total of 8 hours or more every single day.


It would feel pretty tired wouldn’t it?


A similar effect happens when your eyes have to try and actively focus up close for prolonged periods of time – the eye muscles get fatigued and can ache after a while.


This effect can be even more pronounced for the over 40’s, where a normal age-related loss of near focusing ability makes this task even more difficult to perform.


It’s also been shown that when we stare at a computer screen, we actually blink 66% less often! This along with common office environmental factors can also contribute to dry, uncomfortable eyes.

What’s the solution?


To start with, having a comprehensive eye exam to rule out any pre-existing vision conditions is essential to ensure that your eyes have not been working harder than necessary. Conditions such as astigmatism (oval-shaped corneas) and anisometropia (different prescriptions between the eyes) may pile on even more weights on that outstretched hand, if we return back to our earlier analogy!


Simple practical changes such as reducing background glare and taking regular breaks can also help alleviate some of the symptoms.

A simple rule to go by is the 20/20/20 rule: After every 20 minutes, look at something 20 metres away, for at least 20 seconds.


With the recent up tick in digital screen use however, traditional measures can be insufficient to maintain healthy, comfortable eyes. This is where the new development of computer lenses come in.


What are computer lenses?

Computer lenses are a newly developed special-purpose lens (currently only available from independent optometrists) specifically designed to optimize your eyesight while viewing your computer screen or digital device! These lenses give you a wide, clear field of vision without forcing your eyes to continually refocus (or excessively focus) and reduce the amount of work your eyes have to do to keep objects at various distances in focus.

Our optometrists have been specially trained to fine-tune the lens prescriptions using these lenses in order to fit exactly your usage and maximize the benefit to you.


The majority of younger people wear glasses to correct their distance vision. Reading glasses are prescribed to correct near vision only, and results in blurry vision in the distance. Bifocals prescribed for those over age 40 with presbyopia correct only reading and distance. Even trifocals and progressive lenses (which do have some lens power for intermediate vision) often don't have a large enough intermediate zone for comfortable sustained computer work.


Without specially designed computer glasses, many computer users often end up with blurred vision, eye strain and headaches – All of which are the most common symptoms of ‘digital eye fatigue’. Worse still, many people try to compensate for their blurred vision by leaning forward which can result in a sore neck, back and shoulders.

Computer glasses put the ideal lens power for viewing your computer screen exactly where you need it for a crystal clear, wide field of view without the need for excessive focusing effort or unhealthy postures.


There are many types of lens designs within the “computer glasses” category. Because these lenses are prescribed specifically for computer use, they’re not suitable for driving or general purpose wear.


The simplest type of computer glasses have single vision lenses with a tailored power to provide the most comfortable vision for the users computer screen. This lens power eases the effort required to keep objects in focus at the distance of the computer screen. These lenses are generally designed for younger users that have no problems seeing up close otherwise.


Another popular lens design for computer glasses are “occupationals’ – a no-line multifocal design that corrects near, intermediate and also a limited amount of distance vision. Occupationals have a larger intermediate zone than regular multifocal lenses, for more comfortable vision at the computer. But this leaves less lens area for distance vision. So these lenses are not recommended for driving or other significant distance vision tasks.


Other lens designs used for computer glasses include occupational bifocal and trifocal lenses. These lined multifocal lenses have larger zones for intermediate and near vision than regular bifocals and trifocals, and the position of the zones can be customized for your specific computer vision needs.

Lastly, the blue-light blocking coating is a key part in not only reducing glare and unwanted reflections, but also controlling the amount of blue-light exposure, which has been linked to being an accelerant to age-related macular degeneration, as well as causing poor and interrupted sleep at night.


All of this contributes to significantly affect your overall well-being throughout the day, and the addressing of which has been shown to significantly increase productivity.


So, are you experiencing some of the symptoms of digital eye fatigue? Call us on (09) 831 0202 to arrange an appointment with our optometrists.


Or if you would like more information about the computer lenses, just leave your name and email address below – we will be in touch with further details.


* your eyes may not be the only cause for these symptoms – our optometrist can certainly advise you on whether your eyes are the likely cause, but it’s generally a good idea to have your health checked by your doctor if you haven’t already done so.

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[1] A Report on a Survey of New Zealanders’ Use of Smartphones and other Mobile Communication Devices 2015, Research New Zealand


[2] 2015 Digital Eye Strain Report – The Vision Council