Do You Need Computer Glasses?

If your work involves lots of screen time, swapping your regular glasses for a pair of computer glasses can help ease the strain on your eyes.

Woman with glasses looking at the computer

Forget working hours — these days, many of us are online for nearly all of our waking hours.

Not only do many of us work at a computer for seven hours a day, according to the American Optometric Association, but we’re also spending more time on screens in general. In fact, screen time has increased in some adults by nearly 50% since 2020, according to researchers at the University of Minnesota, with many of them streaming TV shows and scrolling through social media on their devices.

The problem: Staring at a computer screen (or your device) for hours on end can set you up for digital-related eyestrain, which can cause blurry vision and dry eyes, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).

No one can unplug completely, but there are ways to ease your aching eyes. One easy fix? Swap your standard eyeglasses for a pair of computer eyeglasses, which are lenses specifically designed to be worn during computer use.

Have questions about your eye health or vision? Your America’s Best optometrist is here to help. Click here to find an exam time that fits your schedule.

What Are Computer Glasses?

Unlike your regular eyeglasses — which may correct for nearsightedness or farsightedness (or both) — computer glasses correct for an intermediate, or arm’s-length, distance.

“Any time we look at things at an arm’s length, there are several muscles within the eye that help us focus,” says Amanda Van Daalen, O.D., an optometrist who practices at America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses in Coralville, Iowa. “And just like the other muscles in our body, if we overwork them, they get tired.”

When these eye muscles tire out, headaches and eyestrain set in, and objects start to appear out of focus, she says.

“Computer glasses can help relieve the work of those muscles, so they don’t have to work so hard,” she says.

Whereas a typical prescription for distance lenses corrects your vision to about 10 to 20 feet away, an intermediate prescription helps you see clearly 20 to 26 inches away, although this can vary from person to person, she explains. People who work on laptops may work a little closer to their device than those who work on a desktop computer.

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The Right Candidates for Computer Glasses

You may be a good candidate for computer glasses if — you guessed it — you work at a computer for much of the day, whether you need corrective lenses or not. That’s because the glasses take the strain of working in front of a screen off your eyes, explains Dr. Van Daalen.

But there are others who may benefit too, including:

People who wear bifocals. These are eyeglasses that correct for distance at the top of the lens and near vision at the bottom. They don’t, however, have a prescription that corrects for intermediate vision.

People who’ve tried progressives and don’t like them. Progressives are multifocal lenses that let you see things up close, at intermediate distances, and far away — without the line in the middle that bifocals have. But they can take some getting used to, and some people simply don’t want to wear lenses that have three prescriptions in them.

If that sounds like you, talk to your eye doctor, suggests Dr. Van Daalen. You can get a pair of bifocals to use when you’re out and about, and computer glasses when you’re working or looking at your screens.

But if you’re happy with your progressive lenses, there’s no need to get a separate pair of computer glasses. “For most people who need progressives, that’s the ideal option because that’s going to have your faraway, arm’s length, and up-close prescription all in one lens,” Dr. Van Daalen says.

What About Eyeglasses with Blue-Light Filters?

Blue light is a type of light that emits from screens, including computer screens. While there’s no evidence showing that blue light can increase the risk of digital eyestrain, it can make it tougher for you to fall asleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“There’s good evidence that the blue light–blocking glasses help with our circadian rhythm or our sleep-wake cycles,” Dr. Van Daalen says.

It’s a good idea to put down your phone or laptop at least two hours before you nod off, she says. But if you can’t force yourself to power down before bed, wearing blue light–blocking glasses at night might help you fall asleep easier.

At America’s Best, you can also get blue-light filters added to a pair of new eyeglasses. The NeverBlue lenses block blue light and come with a scratch-resistant coating.

How Well Do Computer Glasses Work?

There’s no real drawback to wearing computer glasses. “Most people are really glad that they switched over,” Dr. Van Daalen says. “I think they find they get a lot of relief, less headaches, less pressure in and around their eyes, and less fatigue.”

One caveat: While computer glasses can help ease eyestrain by correcting for intermediate vision, there are other things you can do that will help as well:

Blink regularly. Blinking can keep your eyes lubricated with healthy tears and ward off eyestrain. But staring at a screen cuts the number of blinks per minute by more than half — from 15 blinks per minute to about five to seven, according to the AAO. So try to remind yourself to blink more often while working.

Adjust the brightness. The brightness of the screen should match the level of light surrounding you.

Follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds, recommends Dr. Van Daalen.

Use artificial tears. Artificial tears can add moisture to your eyes if they’re feeling dry. Get expert tips on finding the right eye drops here.

Press play to learn more about how screen time affects your eyes:

Medically reviewed by Amanda Van Daalen, O.D.

See our sources:

Computer vision syndrome explained: American Optometric Association

Screen time behaviors: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

Screen time and eyestrain: American Academy of Ophthalmology

How light affects circadian rhythm: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/NIOSH