Computer Complaints and Their Possible Culprits

10:15 AM

All-day computer users are typically unhappy in my experience via
Let me first preface this by saying, this particular post may be overwhelming.  It certainly was when I was writing it.  If you have any of the common computer-related complaints listed below, this post is just meant to help show you that your eye doctor is the BEST way to figure out what is causing your complaint and how to solve it.  With that being said, let's take a look at the most common ocular complaints in the world of computer users, and what may be causing those problems!

Tired eyes, eye strain, dull pain behind the eyes

When your eyes are looking at the computer, for most people their eyes have to work to see.  Most people who have perfect distance vision (or have their distance vision made perfect by wearing glasses or contact lenses) have a natural focus point at 20 feet (distance vision).  That means that when they look in the distance, their eyes have to do no work to focus.   When you shift your vision to a near task (like the computer), your eyes will have to use their focusing ability.  This "work" or focusing ability for the eyes to see up close is called accommodation.  I like to compare it to lifting weights:  when you look at the computer, your eye is "lifting weights"; when you look in the distance, it is as if you are putting the weight down.  No surprise, looking at the computer screen all day long is tiring!


 20/20/20 rule - this is a popular ergonomic strategy for taking breaks to let your eyes refocus.  Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away (down the hall or out a window), and break to blink for 20 seconds.

Computer Glasses - Your doctor can prescribe a pair of glasses to help your eyes focus at your computer distance.  Some people benefit from a low amount of plus power (typically less powerful than you would find with over-the-counter reading glasses).  Think of these glasses as aids to let your eyes do less work when they are at the screen

Anti-reflective coating or yellow tint - if your screen or workplace has a ton of glare, your eyes could be suffering from that excess reflecting light.  Coatings can help minimize that light bounce-back.  A yellow tint in your glasses increases contrast on the screen and cuts even more glare.

Double Vision

If you experience double vision (or diplopia as it is called in the medical world), it is likely because your eyes are having a hard time working together.Your eyes may not naturally focus together equally.  This does not necessarily mean you have an eye turn, but many people's eyes over or under focus.  These conditions are typically termed convergence insufficiency (eyes underfocus) or convergence excess (eyes over focus).  Either can lean to strain, ache behind the eyes, and potentially double vision.  Only your eye doctor can determine if your eye muscles are working together properly.  Treatments include glasses, prism (to move the image to your eye's natural focal spot), and vision therapy.

Eyelid twitching

Follow this link to read my post about myokymia (eye muscle twitching).  Don't worry, it is most typically due to stress, fatigue, and caffeine levels.

Blurry vision, either at the computer screen, or driving home at the end of the day

If your eyes are too strained (see above) they will actually just give up and you will have blurry vision as a side effect.  A thorough eye exam will reveal exactly what your culprit is:
  • uncorrected astigmatism:  A lot of my patients have astigmatism (curvature of the eye) that they have never needed glasses for before, but due to their long hours of eye work, their eyes can no longer compensate for their natural imperfect eye shape.  If you have astigmatism, it is just the shape of your eye -- it typically is present from early childhood. But if it is a low amount, your eyes can "squint" or focus, and see clearly without you needing glasses.   At the computer, your eyes are being asked to squint and focus more than ever, and sometimes they will finally give up.  Blurry vision results.  

  • uncorrected hyperopia:  Hyperopia means that the eyes have to work harder to see up close than they do to see in the distance (far-sighted is the other word for this).  Most people that are far sighted do not need any glasses until after 40 when the normal aging change of the eyes kicks in.  But computer users sometimes need help earlier in life because their eyes are doing so much more work!

  • uncorrected myopia:  Sometimes years of near work, either computer use, studying, or both, can result in late-onset myopia (typically in our 20s).  In the optometry world, we call this graduate school creep -- your eyes typically stop changing in college, but for people doing long near work hours later into life, it may keep changing! Myopia or near sightedness means that is it easier to see up close than it is in the distance.  For these patients, a pair of night driving glasses can be beneficial for driving home after a long day.  Since their eyes are made to see better at near, computer glasses wouldn't be beneficial in this case (unless they also have astigmatism of course).
Take Home Point:  Your eyes may be blurry driving home because they were working too hard at the computer, or because they need glasses to see at the distance.  Either of these conditions have night driving blur as a complaint!  Your eye doctor will be able to determine which of these conditions is your culprit, and prescribe what you need depending on the underlying issue.

Red eyes, burning, stinging, watering, dryness, blurry vision that clears with blink

One word:  Dryness!  If your eyes feel any of these symptoms, they are most likely suffering from dryness.  I know, watering is dryness?  Your eyes water to protect themselves, because they got too dry!  Watering is an emergency response, triggered by the dryness on the surface of your eye.  For more information, read these posts:


20/20/20 rule  -- blinking breaks are important because at the computer, we blink 50% less.  Blinking releases tear film onto the eye.  So please, remember to take breaks to blink!

Artificial tears -- moisturizing or lubricating only.  DO NOT GET RED EYE RELIEF DROPS.  THEY WILL DRY YOUR EYES OUT AS A SIDE EFFECT.  Great brands are Systane Ultra, Refresh Optive, Blink, Genteal, Soothe XP, and Theratears.  You can use these drops up to 4 x a day.  It is better to use them BEFORE your eyes get too dry for best results, so if you know your eyes are always dry at 5:00, put a drop in around 3:00.  This should prevent the surface from getting dry in the first place!

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