Computer Vision Syndrome In the Zoom Age


  • Increased screen time caused by e-learning and working from home has affected eye health dramatically.
  • Optometrists can identify patients who are at risk for problems from increased screen time by adding screening questions to their intake form. 
  • Prescribing screen time limits is the most effective way to protect your patients’ eyes.
  • Steps designed for digital eye strain prevention include prescribing computer glasses, encouraging a better computer setup at home, and providing effective patient education.

The pandemic has impacted our lives in ways that many of us don’t even realize. As an eyecare professional, you may be noticing the long-term effects of increasing digital demands on your patients’ vision. We’re sharing six ways to help manage them.

Increased Screen Time Causes Eye Strain

Between 66% and 100% of optometrists report that they’re seeing the effects of increased screen time in their patients’ vision, which can lead to a variety of problems like dry eye disease, myopia, binocular vision, and accommodative dysfunction.

Diagnosing this problem is particularly challenging in children because kids won’t typically be aware of their vision problems. Even those who are aware are not likely to tell their parents.

Adults are much more aware of the effects of screen time than they were even five years ago, but the increasing digital demands of work, school, and social interactions are making it hard for many to limit their own screen time or that of their kids.

Here are six ways that optometrists can help.

1. Start with your intake form.

sign in note

Ask patients to indicate the amount of time they spend on electronic devices and outdoors as well as describe any symptoms of eye strain they’ve noticed. Understanding a child’s school format and recreational activities will give you a better idea of how likely it is that they are having vision problems.

Include a place on the intake form for patients to fill out any symptoms they’re having with their visual clarity like blurred vision, headaches, neck and shoulder pain, or asthenopia. Parents should also be able to indicate their observations of squinting, blinking, or staring behaviors.

It may also be helpful to include on your intake form a symptom severity scale. By knowing this information ahead of time, you can be better prepared for the exam and ask more targeted questions. You’ll also have a better idea of why they may be experiencing some of their symptoms and how you can help alleviate them.

2. Let a patient’s case history and symptom severity inform critical testing.

Not too long ago, a dilated fundus exam wasn’t typically associated with eye care for children, but as the prevalence of myopia has increased, it’s become an important tool in detecting and monitoring the disease.

The same may be true for digital eye strain. Depending on what you find during the history and exam, you may need to do further testing with specialized instruments. This might include a corneal topographer for dry eye or contact lens evaluations, a stereopsis machine for binocular vision disorders, or a wavefront analyzer for higher-order aberrations.

3. Prescribe screen time limits and regular breaks.

kids playing outside

If you suspect a patient is spending too much time on electronic devices, you may want to prescribe screen time limits and regular breaks. This will help to prevent the development of vision problems like digital eye strain, myopia, and binocular vision disorders.

Unfortunately, when a child is participating in online learning or a hybrid learning program, parents can only limit their exposure so much. However, you can educate kids and parents on good visual hygiene.

It’s also important to encourage kids to spend time outdoors. This can help to reduce the risk of myopia and other vision problems. Let parents know that outdoor activities also help to train the eye muscles and improve focusing ability.

4. Suggest computer glasses.

If you find that a patient is experiencing symptoms of digital eye strain, you may want to prescribe computer glasses. These are specially designed to reduce eye fatigue and help the eyes focus more easily on the screen.

They typically have a blue light filter and anti-reflective coating to help reduce the amount of blue light that reaches the eyes. They also have a wider field of view so that the eyes don’t have to work as hard to scan the screen.

Some physicians don’t buy into the effectiveness of these glasses, but in many cases, small changes to lenses can help alleviate some of the symptoms of digital eye strain.

5. Encourage patients to adjust their home setup.

home desk

The bigger the computer screen, the better for easier focus and less eye fatigue. Chairs should offer enough firm support, and feet should touch the ground. Staying hydrated and taking breaks often can also help improve symptoms.

If the patient is having trouble with glare on the screen, ambient lighting can help to reduce eye fatigue and makes it easier to see the screen. Avoid direct light and promote natural light as much as possible.

6. Educate your patients.

There’s no such thing as too much patient education about eyecare. Keep your patients informed using the following methods:

  • During the exam
  • In-office signage
  • Website
  • Social media

At every turn, you should be educating your patients on the importance of preventative measures and vision hygiene. This will help to build trust and keep them coming back for years to come.

Final Thoughts

The Zoom age has brought with it a whole new set of problems for our patients. As an optometrist, it’s important that you’re aware of these problems and how to treat them. By following the tips above, you can help your patients understand digital eye strain and ways to prevent vision problems from developing.

Learn more about how RevolutionEHR can help you prevent eye strain and the resulting complications in your patients and give you the freedom to focus on what’s important: providing high-quality care. Book a demo today.

a new vision for your optometry practice

Material for this article was drawn from the webinar Are We Zooming Our Patients Into Vision Problems? Our thanks go to Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD, of Bright Eyes Family Vision Care.