Does looking at a computer damage your eyes?

The old saying goes that watching too much TV will make your eyes go square. Nowadays, we seem to spend most of our time looking at screens: be it a computer screen at work, a mobile phone screen to make a call or a TV screen to relax. But how bad is looking at screens for our eyes? Is there really any truth behind the old saying?

eyes and computers

According to Dr Blakeney, an optometric adviser to the College of Optometrists, computers will not permanently damage the eyes; however, they can cause strain or exacerbate existing eye conditions. (1)

What problems do looking at computer screens cause?

People who look at computers frequently, (in particular those that look at a computer for more than three hours a day), (2) may experience symptoms such as:

  • Eye discomfort
  • Headaches
  • Itchy eyes
  • Dry or watering eyes
  • Burning sensations
  • Changes in color perception
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty focussing (1, 2, 3)


Eyestrain is a type of repetitive strain injury (RSI) that is caused by insufficient rest periods, incorrect working conditions and so forth. (2, 4)

There are many causes of eyestrain. One of these is glare.

There are two types of glare, direct and indirect. Direct glare is where light shines directly in your eyes; whereas indirect glare is caused by light reflecting off surfaces into your eyes. (3)

Glare often results from computer screens being too dark or too bright. (2, 5)

Glare leads to eye muscle fatigue, for the eyes have to struggle to make out the images on the screen. (2)

Another major cause of eyestrain is the position of the computer screen.

Naturally, the eyes are positioned so that they look straight ahead and slightly down.

If the eyes have to look in a different direction, the muscles have to continually work to hold this position.

Thus, if your computer monitor is positioned incorrectly, the eye muscles must constantly work to hold the eyes in the correct position to view the monitor. (2)

In order to prevent the eyes becoming strained in this way, the top of your computer screen should be no higher than eye level. (3)

Dry eye syndrome

According to the NHS, using your computer correctly can also help to prevent dry eye syndrome.

Dry eye syndrome is a condition in which the eyes become inflamed due to a lack of tears. This lack of tears is commonly due to a blockage of the oil secreting glands in the eyes.

Although this condition causes discomfort, it does not usually affect vision. (6)

Ways to minimise damage to your eyes caused by computer screens

There are several ways you can minimise the potential damage to your eyes caused by looking at computer screens.

Firstly, it is important to set up your computer screen so that it is in the correct position in relation to your eyes.

As previously mentioned, the top of the screen should be in line with your eye level. In addition, the screen should be placed approximately 18-30 inches from you.

The screen should also be tilted slightly back – between 10 to 15 degrees depending on the person’s particular preference. This is so that you do not receive glare from lights in the ceiling. (3, 7)

Glare can also be avoided by placing blinds over nearby windows, or using a glare screen. (2, 5)

In addition to adjusting the position of your screen, you can also minimise eye problems by simply blinking more frequently.

Many people don’t realise that they actually blink less when they look at a screen. (2)

Blinking is important, however, as it washes your eyes in their naturally therapeutic fluids. (5)

It is also important to take breaks from looking at your screen. One easy way to remember this is to think of 20-20-20. This reminds you that every 20 minutes you should try to look at something 20 feet away for a minimum of 20 seconds. (5)

It is also recommended to take breaks from your screen altogether, in particular every 2 hours. (2)

Can looking at screens improve eyesight?

Despite the potential eye problems caused by looking at a screen too frequently, research carried out in the US has actually found that some screen viewing can be of benefit to the eyes.

Specifically, they found that playing video games can improve vision.

This is because playing video games gives the users chance to improve their contrast sensitivity. (8)

Contrast sensitivity refers to how faded an object can be before it is impossible to differentiate it from the same field of view. It is something that is affected by ageing. (8, 9)

Contrast sensitivity is particularly important for activities such as driving in poor visibility, like in fog or at night. (8)

Overall does looking at computers damage your eyes?

Overall it seems that although looking at a computer may not cause permanent eye damage, it can cause some irritating problems, such as eye strain and dry eyes.

It is also important to remember, that there are many other potential problems associated with sitting down and staring at a computer for long periods of times, such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). (10)

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jun 7, 2023

April Cashin-Garbutt

Written by

April Cashin-Garbutt

April graduated with a first-class honours degree in Natural Sciences from Pembroke College, University of Cambridge. During her time as Editor-in-Chief, News-Medical (2012-2017), she kickstarted the content production process and helped to grow the website readership to over 60 million visitors per year. Through interviewing global thought leaders in medicine and life sciences, including Nobel laureates, April developed a passion for neuroscience and now works at the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour, located within UCL.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Cashin-Garbutt, April. (2023, June 07). Does looking at a computer damage your eyes?. News-Medical. Retrieved on July 23, 2024 from

  • MLA

    Cashin-Garbutt, April. "Does looking at a computer damage your eyes?". News-Medical. 23 July 2024. <>.

  • Chicago

    Cashin-Garbutt, April. "Does looking at a computer damage your eyes?". News-Medical. (accessed July 23, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Cashin-Garbutt, April. 2023. Does looking at a computer damage your eyes?. News-Medical, viewed 23 July 2024,


  1. 0101Virus 0101Virus United Kingdom says:

    Like many say, I too believe looking at screens causes shortsightedness..
    And I have a kind of proof.
    I'm a special case where unless I try to use my left eye it won't actually work, my brain blocks the signal, and I practically live on computers.
    Over time my right eye has kept getting weaker, (shortsighted) while my left remains completely unchanged talking over 10 years..
    If it were simply eye growth or aging it wouldn't only affect my one eye focusing on close-up screens..

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.

You might also like...
EU funds the international "BEHIND-MS" consortium to tackle multiple sclerosis