Do I Have Digital Eyestrain? Take Our Quiz and Find Out.

Put your symptoms to the test — and learn how to enjoy tech without the side effects. 

Do I Have Digital Eyestrain? Take Our Quiz and Find Out

People have been squinting to read fine print since the invention of clay tablets. But only in the last few decades have so many of us (including children) been so glued to the tiny typeface on smartphones, tablets, laptops, and TVs. It’s a habit that may be putting more strain on our eyes than ever. 

“With digital devices, we are reading things longer than when it was just books or paper,” says optometrist Frank Forgnoni, O.D., with America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses in Anderson, South Carolina.  

On electronic devices, says Dr. Forgnoni, “it’s a little more interesting to click on another tab or go to another page. It keeps your attention longer, so digitally, you’re on a close task longer than with other types of media.” 

The habit has even given rise to its own term: computer vision syndrome, also known as digital eyestrain. It’s a collection of vision-related problems that can be surprisingly subtle or overlap with those of other conditions. Left untreated, the symptoms can worsen and even cause head and neck pain or take a toll on your ability to work. 

Take this quiz to find out whether you’re experiencing the symptoms of digital eyestrain — and learn what to do about it. 

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. 

Question 1: Do you get headaches regularly? 

  1. Yes  
  2. No  

Your Answer: Yes  

When we focus on objects up close — such as the tiny print in our emails — the muscle behind our eyes flexes. Just like any muscle, it becomes strained when it’s flexed for too long. And that can result in a headache. 

Dr. Forgnoni says that at first, many of his patients brush off the idea that a computer or tablet is causing an occasional headache. “They’ll say, ‘Well, I’ve always had headaches,’ or, ‘It can’t be a computer because I’m on it for 10 hours a day,’” he says.  

But Dr. Forgnoni explains that computer vision syndrome may be responsible for at least some of the headaches a person experiences, even if that person gets headaches or migraines for other reasons too. 

“The vision aspect of headaches is often the missing puzzle piece,” he explains. “We have to at least fix the problems that we know exist.” 

One tip that may help head off eyestrain: Follow the 20-20-20 rule. For every 20 minutes you spend staring at something up close — such as a computer or smartphone — look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This gives the eye muscle a chance to rest. 

Your Answer: No  

Headaches can be an overlooked symptom of digital eyestrain (they have many other causes as well). When we focus our eyes on something up close — such as the tiny print in our emails — the muscle behind our eye flexes. Just like any muscle, the eye muscle becomes strained when it’s flexed for too long. That can result in a headache. 

Just because you don’t get regular headaches, however, doesn’t mean that you don’t have digital eyestrain.  

It’s also a good idea to follow the 20-20-20 rule: For every 20 minutes you spend staring at something up close, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. It can help keep eyestrain from starting in the first place. 

Question 2: Do your eyes feel dry? 

  1. Yes  
  2. No  

Your Answer: Yes  

People who do a lot of work on a computer, or people who stare at a screen up close, can be susceptible to developing dry eye. This is a condition in which your eyes don’t produce enough quality tears, says Dr. Forgnoni.  

“The more interested you are in something up close, the less likely you are to blink enough,” he explains.  

Every time we blink, we coat our eyes in tears — a liquid combination of water, oil, and mucus. The problem is that when we forget to blink, the tears evaporate more quickly, leaving us prone to dryness or irritation, he says. (As we age, our bodies also tend to produce fewer quality tears.)  

If your eye doctor detects any signs of dry eye, they may recommend using artificial tears, which can help keep your eyes lubricated.  

Dr. Forgnoni recommends using the drops at least once in the morning (within an hour of waking up), once before going to bed, and four or five times throughout the day. Even if you can’t remember to use the artificial tears that often, try to use them at least twice a day.  

Your Answer: No  

Dry eye, a condition in which your eyes don’t produce enough quality tears, can be a common symptom of digital eyestrain, says Dr. Forgnoni. “The more interested you are in something up close, the less likely you are to blink enough,” he explains. 

Here’s how it works: Every time we blink, we coat our eyes in tears — a combination of watery fluid, oil, and mucus.  

The problem is that when we forget to blink, the tears evaporate more quickly, leaving us prone to dryness or irritation, he says. (As we age, our bodies also tend to produce fewer quality tears.)  

There are other signs of digital eyestrain besides dry eye. So just because you’re not experiencing it doesn’t mean that you don’t have computer vision syndrome. 

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Question 3: Do you feel fatigued throughout the day? 

  1. Yes  
  2. No  

Your Answer: Yes  

There are lots of possible reasons for feeling tired throughout the day (especially the working day). And looking at a screen for long periods is one of them.  

“There’s more brain matter dedicated to vision than any other sense — more than smell, taste, and touch,” says Dr. Forgnoni. “If your eyes aren’t focusing well, you’re going to struggle. It’s going to slow you down and cause some fatigue.”  

To take some strain off your eyes, set your screen about 20 to 28 inches from your eyes — from about your fingertips to your elbow, Dr. Forgnoni says. 

If you can’t control the distance of your computer, or can’t push the screen back far enough, your eye doctor may need to fit you for a pair of eyeglasses with a prescription different from your regular glasses (which are designed to correct for distances about 20 inches away). 

Your Answer: No  

There are lots of possible causes of fatigue, especially during the workday. Digital eyestrain is one of them.  

“There’s more brain matter dedicated to vision than any other sense — more than smell, taste, and touch,” says Dr. Forgnoni. “If your eyes aren’t focusing well, you’re going to struggle. It’s going to slow you down and cause some fatigue.”  

Even if you’re not experiencing fatigue throughout the day, it’s a good idea to ward off eyestrain by making sure your computer screen (and a tablet, TV, and even a smartphone) is set at least 20 inches from your face. 

Question 4: Do your eyes occasionally look red? 

  1. Yes  
  2. No  

Your Answer: Yes  

Eye redness — especially if it appears at the end of the day — is one possible sign of digital eyestrain, says Dr. Forgnoni. Sometimes people chalk up the redness to allergies, he says, but too much screen time is another culprit. 

You may be able to reduce eye redness by lowering the glare on your computer. You can do this by either turning down your monitor’s brightness or using an anti-glare screen. On many smartphones, you can turn down the brightness level or switch to a night mode. 

Another way to cut back on glare is by opting for lenses with anti-glare coating on them. “A glare coating improves your overall clarity by about 10%,” Dr. Forgnoni says.  

One caveat: You need to purchase the anti-glare coating before your lenses are manufactured — you can’t add them to a pair of existing eyeglass lenses, he says. 

Your Answer: No  

If your eyes never look red at the end of the day, that’s good news. Eye redness is one possible sign of digital eyestrain, says Dr. Forgnoni, although it isn’t the only one. 

Even if you aren’t showing signs of eyestrain, it’s a good idea to make sure your screens aren’t too bright, which could irritate your eyes.  

On your computer, try turning down your monitor’s brightness to a comfortable level (you shouldn’t have to squint to see what’s on it) or using an anti-glare screen. On many smartphones, you can turn down the brightness level or switch to a night mode. 

You can also opt for eyeglasses that have an anti-glare coating on the lenses. “A glare coating improves your overall clarity by about 10%,” Dr. Forgnoni says.  

One caveat: You need to purchase the glare coating before your lenses are manufactured — you can’t add them to a pair of existing eyeglasses, he says. 

Has it been a while since your last eye checkup? Now’s the time to book an appointment! Click here to find an appointment time that fits your schedule. 

If you’re showing signs of digital eyestrain, the good news is that the symptoms are usually temporary. They can be corrected with a few modifications to your work setup, artificial tears, or the right pair of eyeglasses.  

Regardless of your symptoms, it’s important to schedule an annual eye exam with your eye doctor, who can spot the signs of an eye condition early on.

“Ideally, you would come in for an eye exam even before you start experiencing digital eyestrain,” says Dr. Forgnoni.  

When you arrive for your appointment, make sure you tell your doctor how long you spend in front of a screen each day and how far it’s positioned in front of you.