Computers, Phones, and Blinking

Time spent looking at computer and phone screens is closely associated with dry eye.

Computers, Phones, and Blinking in Olympia

As computer and mobile phone use has increased, so too has the prevalence of dry eye. Why is this, and what can be done to avoid it?

American Family Vision Clinic

Screens, Eye Strain, and Dry Eye

As we increasingly live in a world dominated by digital screens, the relationship between screen usage and dry eye syndrome has become more evident. Roughly 50% of individuals who consistently engage with computers or smartphones experience some level of dry eye. This is a common occurrence especially in the United States, where many individuals work long hours on digital devices.

Why Do Screens Contribute to Dry Eye Syndrome?

The simple answer is that when we engage with screens, we unconsciously decrease our blinking frequency or don't blink fully. This interferes with our eyes' natural lubrication mechanism, leading to dry eye syndrome, a condition often dealt with by our eye care professional.

Symptoms of Eye Strain

Symptoms of eye strain associated with screen use extend beyond dry eyes. They also include blurry vision, headaches, and in more severe cases, neck and shoulder pain. If you are in Olympia, and experiencing these symptoms, don't hesitate to contact us at (360) 491-2121 to schedule an appointment at our eye care clinic.

Dry eye from screen use is most prevalent among individuals who spend extended periods in front of screens for work. Fortunately, no evidence currently suggests that eye strain from screen use has long-term negative impacts on your eyesight. But the discomfort can be unpleasant and interfere with your daily productivity.

How to Avoid Computer Eye Strain and Dry Eye

As an experienced optometrist, Dr. Levi Zurcher would recommend prevention over treatment. The symptoms usually subside if preventive measures are put into practice.

Fortunately, there are simple measures that we have discussed below that you can take to effectively avoid this problem.

How to Avoid Computer Eye Strain and Dry Eye
The 20/20/20 Rule

The 20/20/20 Rule

We aren’t meant to be staring all day at something right in front of us. The 20/20/20 rule is a good way to give our eyes important breaks over the course of the work day.

The way it works is simple. For every 20 minutes you spend looking at a screen, spend 20 seconds looking at something at least 20 feet away. This is just a minimum, however; looking away from the screen for more time is even better for your eyes.

These breaks where you use longer distance vision help keep the eyes from getting overly strained.

The 20/20/20 Rule

Keep Your Room Well Lit

While it might not be obvious, you want to have less light in the room while working on a computer. It should not be dark, but also not too bright. You can achieve this by using less fluorescent lighting, closing curtains, and using lower voltage bulbs. The average office is usually too bright, and the overstimulation can increase the likelihood of eye strain and dry eye.

Reduce Glare

Glare on your screens can lead to eye strain since it prevents your eyes from adjusting as easily as they should to whatever you are trying to focus on.

To reduce glare, use an anti-glare matte screen when possible, as opposed to glass-covered LCDs. If you wear glasses as you work, make sure they have an anti-reflective coating.

Use a High Resolution Screen

Fortunately, computer screens today are better than the old CRT screens which had low refresh rates and created noticeable flickers. Most modern screens have refresh rates of 75Hz or higher. More is better. Screens with higher resolutions look more lifelike, and when you cannot see the pixels, your eyes won’t have to work as hard to make sense of what you’re seeing.

Get Regular Eye Exams

Getting regular eye exams will help you make sure that your eyes are healthy, and that any issues you might have do not become something major. Additionally, seeing our eye doctor gives you a chance to talk to them and seek advice regarding eye health.

Consider Computer Glasses

Our computer screens are usually arm length away from our eyes. Our glasses however are not optimized for this viewing distance. Regular glasses are optimized for near and far vision. By using our eyes to look at a distance that is not optimized by our glasses, we can cause added eye focusing and eye movement demands on the visual system. Computer glasses are specially designed to optimize your vision for the right viewing distance to reduce strain when looking at a computer screen for extended periods of time. 

How to Avoid Computer Eye Strain and Dry Eye
The 20/20/20 Rule

Practice Blinking

One significant strategy that our optometrist recommends is practicing blinking. Due to the nature of computer and cell phone usage, we tend to blink less fully. Dr. Portello, Christina A. Chu, O.D, M.S., and Mark Rosenfield, Ph.D., found that computer usage resulted in 75% more incomplete blinks than reading from a printed document.

Exercise 1: Spend one minute actively blinking, doing fifty full blinks in that one minute period. Look in each direction (up, down, left, right, straight) and blink ten times in each direction (5×10). When doing this exercise, make sure that your blinks are complete by placing your finger sideways under your eye above your cheekbone, pointing towards your nose. When you blink fully you should feel a gentle brush of your upper eyelashes on your finger. 

Exercise 2:

Close your eyes normally, pause for 2 seconds, then open them. Next, close the eyes normally once again, pause for 2 seconds, and then forcefully close them

Hold the lids together tightly for two seconds, then open both eyes. Repeat for 1 minute.

A firm squeeze is used to ensure that the muscles responsible for closing the eyelids are being used.

Exercise 3: 

Put your fingers at the corners of your eyes and blink. During correct blinking, you should not feel any movement under your fingers.

When you feel anything, you are using your defense muscles on the side of your head. Practice blinking with the goal of using your blinking muscles that are above your eyelids.

If you're experiencing persistent dry eye syndrome or eye strain, don't hesitate to reach out to us at (360) 491-2121 to schedule an appointment with our qualified optometrist in Olympia.

Common Questions

To help deal with your dry eyes some natural solutions are to apply warm compresses over your eyes twice a day for 10 minutes and then do lid massages with lid scrubs. Also taking omega-3 fish oil supplements or eating foods with naturally high omega-3s as well as staying hydrated can help. Additionally, taking breaks from your digital screen devices is important; every 20 minutes look somewhere far away, like outside of your window, for 20 seconds. Furthermore, If you’re an incomplete blinker, there are different blink exercises to learn how to take more frequent and full blinks, which can help relieve your symptoms of dry eyes. In regards to your environment you can add a humidifier and filter to add moisture to the air.
Protecting your eyes from mobile and computer screens involves a combination of environmental adjustments, behavioral changes, and regular eye care. First, adjust the brightness and contrast settings on your screens and ensure the room is well lit, but not too bright. Use the 20/20/20 rule: for every 20 minutes of screen use, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds to rest your eyes. Regular eye check-ups with a professional like American Family Vision Clinic can help detect any early signs of eye strain. Lastly, consider investing in computer glasses that filter blue light.
Blinking is critical for maintaining eye health, particularly when using a computer. Each blink provides the eyes with a brief rest from the light and visual input of the screen. Moreover, blinking spreads a layer of tears across the surface of your eyes, keeping them moist, nourished, and clear. Reduced blinking rate when using computers can lead to dryness, irritation, and other symptoms of computer vision syndrome.
Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) results from prolonged computer usage and can present as eye strain, headaches, and blurry vision. The best way to get rid of CVS is to manage your screen time effectively. Implement the 20/20/20 rule, adjust your workstation ergonomically to reduce strain, and ensure proper lighting to avoid glare. Regular breaks from the screen and eye exercises can also help. If symptoms persist, consult an eye care professional at American Family Vision Clinic.
Computers can indeed cause eye strain. Our eyes need to work harder to focus on the content on the screen, especially if it's not at an optimal distance or angle. Constantly moving your focus between different parts of the screen can lead to tired, overworked eye muscles. Additionally, the glare and blue light emitted by screens can contribute to eye discomfort.
While computers don't inherently weaken eyesight, excessive or improper use can lead to symptoms like blurred vision and eye strain, commonly termed Computer Vision Syndrome. Prolonged, uninterrupted screen time without breaks can cause discomfort, but there is no concrete evidence to suggest it causes permanent damage to eyesight. Regular eye exams are essential to monitor your eye health.
The healthy amount of screen time varies for different age groups and individual needs. Generally, for adults, it is advisable to take regular breaks and follow the 20/20/20 rule. Pediatric guidelines suggest no more than 1-2 hours of recreational screen time per day for school-age children. If your occupation requires extended screen time, consider using blue light blocking glasses and taking regular breaks to relax your eyes.
Dr. Zurcher cartoon


Dry eye from screen use is increasingly common as we all spend more and more time looking at computer or smartphone screens. Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to minimize the risk of dry eye, and ensure that if you need to use screens regularly, you can do so in comfort. If you have questions regarding dry eye or wish to schedule a dry eye exam, call us at (360) 491-2121. Patients with dry eyes visit our clinic from all over Washington, and we are proud to be a leading provider of dry eye care for patients from Olympia, Lakewood, Tacoma, and Lacey.

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Such a nice optician. My grandson is only 4 and needs glasses. We were so sad, but he explained the issues, and we will follow up as he suggested.

Anna P.

I had such a good experience with the clinic. Very friendly staff and doctor, did not have to wait for long to be called, and was treated respectfully. Thanks, American Family.

June S.

Dr. Zurcher has gone above and beyond what any other eye doctor has ever done to figure out what is going on with my eyes. Very happy with American Family Vision.

Christine R.

Family Vision Clinic changed our lives! My daughter was frequently car sick, and she was getting headaches every day, often painful enough that they brought her to tears. We saw a string of doctors and therapists, but we made no progress. Finally, we found Dr. Levi Zurcher and his eye therapist Rain. After ten weeks of eye therapy my daughter no longer gets headaches, and she no longer gets car sick. Daily tears are a thing of the past. I really can’t say enough about this clinic. It was fascinating to watch Dr. Zurcher work. For the first time, someone who knew what they were doing was intently studying my daughter, really trying to figure out all of her eye issues, and his therapist Rain is one of the most patient and lovely people that I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. We’re finished with eye therapy—yay!—and I have switched to American Family Vision Clinic for all of my family’s other eye health needs.

Lars Wulff

Very professional, yet kind and helpful. They do what they can to make the appointment comfortable. I was running a bit late, I made sure ti call. They were able to switch me with a patient who was already there, they treated me with respect, and helped my son have confidence by getting him the eye care he needed that day. Thank you so much! Would recommend to anyone. It's a blessing that they care enough to work with people who have all different types of insurance from work to state coverage.

Justin E.

The staff is friendly. The Doc is very knowledgeable. The office is family friendly and everyone is so patient with the little ones.

Amy Fagerness
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