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Why do my eyes hurt staring at a screen all day?

my eyes hurt after staring at a screen all day

Why do my eyes hurt staring at a screen all day?

It goes without saying that from an evolutionary standpoint, we weren’t meant to look at little backlit boxes 2 feet from our face for 16 hours a day. Shocking right? With near visual demands constantly increasing due to digital technologies we often find ourselves in these situations. Computers all day at work, intertwined with breaks on your cell, before heading home to watch TV. The staring out the windshield after work doesn’t help either, especially if you’ve experienced dryness or fatigue throughout the day. What’s the deal?

Well – its multifactorial. Looking up close actually requires your eyes to accommodate, which is really just flexing a circular muscle within the eye. Like all muscles, over time they become tired and tend to either relax completely causing near blur or become stuck in a “cramp”, or what we call an accommodative spasm. Sometimes the eye works so hard to look up close that it gets stuck in this position and stays flexed in the near focus position. The accommodative system is integrated with the convergence system as well as the pupils. When you focus up close, your eyes flex, turn closer together, and your pupils constrict. A slight miscalculation in prescription can throw all of these systems into a tizzy leading to eye strain, fatigue, pain, double vision, dry eye, and more.

In addition to the visual demands of looking up close, we tend to blink our eyes less when we are focused on screens. Whether work or play, studies have shown blink rates dropping >60% compared to the normal eye. Why does this matter? Blinking is an important function of the eye, washing fresh oxygenated tears across the cornea and conjunctiva, creating a smooth and stable surface which allows us to see clearly. We are “programmed” to blink about every 10 seconds or so, washing fresh tears across the front of our eye, and restabilizing the tear film. When we decrease our blink rate the tear film tends to break up before our next blink, leading to the lid dragging across the dry cornea. Without the extra blanket of tear film protection we start to see symptoms of dry eye – painful watery eyes, desiccation of the epithelium, reduced vision, and unstable vision.

So how do we fix these problems? At Urban Eyecare we employ a variety of methods, starting from free and easy tricks all the way through specialty lenses and treatments.

Free and Easy Treatments

·         20/20/20 rule – look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes

·         Forced blinking – You’ve got eyelids! Pay attention and make sure you are blinking, massage them gently if they are burning and bothersome after a long staring session, or try an artificial tear to help buffer your natural tears

Low Cost Treatment

·         Artificial tears, oil based or with hyaluronic acid fur superior lubrication and help rebuilding your tear film. Drop tip: If its sold at a gas station you probably shouldn’t put it in your eye

Next Level Treatment

·         Anti-fatigue eyewear: Lenses designed for your specific eyes to reduce near strain on digital devices with build in blue light protection

·         Single vision computer glasses set to the specific focal length of your workspace

·         Workspace progressives with larger midranges for computer work

And those blue light glasses you bought online? They aren’t working as advertised because blue light isn’t the issue with strain, its muscle fatigue. I can turn off all the lights in the room, its still going to be difficult to hold that squat all day.

Please reach out with questions or to schedule your annual exam


Dr. K