Computer vision syndrome, also known as digital eye strain, can cause pain and discomfort. Small adjustments, like taking a break from screen time and improving the lighting in your workspace, can usually help your eyes feel better pretty quickly. For some people, digital eye strain can cause recurrent discomfort.
We don’t have many good studies showing how long eye strain can last. According to the American Optometric Association, the level of your discomfort may depend on other factors, such as: For example, how much time you spend looking at a screen, whether you are nearsighted and whether you have astigmatism. If you have a vision problem that is not currently being treated, it can also make your symptoms worse.
In general, eye strain does not last long. Anecdotally, it seems that digital eye strain usually goes away within an hour of your last interaction with your screen.
If your eye strain is accompanied by other symptoms, such as a headache, dry eyes, neck or shoulder strain, it may take a little longer for your symptoms to go away.
Under normal circumstances, it doesn’t take days for eye strain to go away. If you experience constant eye strain, it’s a sign that an underlying medical condition may be at play.
As soon as you look away from your screen, the pain and discomfort your eyes feel due to eye strain can go away almost immediately. If it doesn’t, try focusing on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds about every 20 minutes to see if that helps.
If you’re reading this on a screen and your eyes are strained, it might be a good idea to look away when you’re done with this article! It’s important to pause at all times of on-screen interaction to give your eyes a break.
In short: no. Eye strain does not usually cause long-term damage to your vision.
We should note that we don’t yet know what long-term exposure to blue light and screen time does to your eyes. Children in particular are growing up with more screen time than at any time in human history.
We may learn more about how prolonged screen exposure affects our eyes in the future. But as of this writing, there’s no reason to think that eye strain will affect your vision.
There are other conditions that can be made worse by looking at a screen for too long. Frequent eye strain that lasts for hours or days can be an indication that one of these conditions is present.
Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry eye syndrome can cause eye strain. When you have this condition, your eyes don’t get properly lubricated whether you’re looking at a screen or something else. Dry eye syndrome can be treated with over-the-counter or prescription eye drops.
Myopia (short-sightedness) can cause your eyes to feel constantly strained and tired if left untreated. Eye strain that feels constant, or eye strain that doesn’t seem directly related to looking at a screen, can be a sign of myopia. Contact lenses or prescription glasses are the first choice if you are nearsighted.
Farsightedness (hyperopia) can also cause eyestrain. When you have it, you can see distant objects and have a harder time seeing things up close, like books, phones, and computer screens.
As people go through the aging process, they can develop presbyopia, a vision disorder in which your eyes lose the ability to focus on nearby objects. This change is due to the fact that the lenses of the eyes become less flexible as we age. In addition to being more difficult to see up close, you may experience eyestrain.
Astigmatism is caused by a deformed cornea. The lens of your eye has an irregular curvature that alters the way light hits your retina, causing blurry or distorted vision. Blurred or distorted vision can occur at any distance, and your vision may be worse at night. This condition can also cause eyestrain.
Pain and irritation when focusing are not the only symptoms of eyestrain. Other symptoms can include:
If you experience significant discomfort or suspect an underlying condition is making symptoms worse, you should make an appointment with an eye care professional.
Eye strain that occurs more than 2 or 3 times a week or that interferes with your daily work and activities is a reason to seek professional help. Your doctor may have some strategies or treatments that can help manage your symptoms.
Digital eye strain can cause temporary pain, burning, and some other symptoms. The good news is that real eye strain doesn’t last too long. If you take a break from looking at screens, your discomfort can usually be resolved within an hour or so.
If you have persistent eye strain, it may not be related to screen time. Talk to an eye doctor if frequent eye strain is affecting your ability to perform your daily activities.