What to do if you suffer from eyestrain

woman holding glasses in hand and rubbing her eyes

Eyestrain, burning eyes, or headache?

Over the past several months, as many of us moved out of properly-lit classrooms and offices to work remotely and have found ourselves peering at laptop screens and computer monitors in all sorts of places like kitchens, bedrooms, backyards and basements.

Varied conditions in less than ideal environments, such as too much light, too little light and glare can contribute to eyestrain. Excessive time at a computer screen even under the best conditions can lead to a form of eye strain called Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).

YouTube Video: Are headaches a sign of eyestrain?

Signs and symptoms of eye strain:

  • sore, red eyes associated with computer use
  • excessively tired eyes, not in keeping with the rest of the worker's body
  • headaches that become more severe while focusing at a computer screen
  • watery or dry eyes
  • sensitivity to light
  • blurred distance vision after work
  • a tendency to squint or lean towards the computer screen
  • difficulty changing focus between the computer, paperwork, and looking up and talking to colleagues or clients.

Prevention tips:

WorkSafeBC and the Canadian Association of Optometrists offers ergonomic guidelines and lifestyle changes to help reduce the risk. Here are a few examples:

  • Position your screen about an arm’s length from your eyes and 20 degrees below eye level.
  • Set brightness and contrast tones on your monitor to suit your eyes.
  • Set the screen colours to minimize glare – for example, a light grey background with darker lettering is best.
  • Minimize reflected glare on your screen by dimming overhead lighting in the room if possible and consider using a protective anti-glare screen cover. Also consider positioning your screen so that it sits perpendicular to windows and other bright light sources. If you are having trouble locating the source of the glare, turn off your monitor to reveal a darkened screen, and tilt/swivel your monitor until the reflection disappears.
  • Keep your screen free of fingerprints and dust, as both can reduce visual clarity.
  • If you alternate between looking at your screen and paperwork, consider obtaining a clipboard that attaches alongside your monitor so that the two are at the same working distance.
  • Use a desk lamp to illuminate paperwork you are working with at the computer if you are having trouble reading them.
  • Use of the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes take a 20 second break and focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet away. This is intended to give your eyes a much-needed break.

Fortunately, you can usually find relief just by letting your eyes rest. It also helps to wear glasses or contact lenses that are the correct prescription.  If ergonomic and lifestyle changes don’t help, visit a doctor.

This health and safety message is provided on behalf of the JOHSC. The JOHSC is an advisory group consisting of worker and management representatives who, as required by the BC Workers Compensation Act, work in a cooperative spirit to improve occupational health and safety on campus and support the university’s occupational health and safety programs.

To find out more about the RRU JOHSC, visit our webpage and/or contact us at: rru-occupational-safety-and-health-committee@RoyalRoads.ca