AOA: August 2017 Digital Eye Strain Key Messages

Digital eye strain is a growing concern in Alberta, as day-to-day life has become increasingly digitized.

  • Digital eye strain is caused by a number of factors including staring at close-up objects for extended periods of time and exposure to blue light that is emitted by digital devices.
  • Another cause of digital eye strain is insufficient blinking. People typically blink 12 times a minute, but when they stare at a screen, they tend to blink only five times a minute, which means their eyes are not being lubricated properly.
  • According to a recent survey conducted by the Alberta Association of Optometrists, Calgarians spend an average of 10.5 hours using digital devices every day.
  • Sixty-four per cent of Calgarians use a digital device immediately after waking up and more than half of Calgarians use a digital device immediately before going to bed (56 per cent).
  • Women and younger Albertans use digital devices more often during the day.
  • Women in Alberta spend more time using digital devices daily (11 hours on average) than men (10 hours on average).
  • Millennials in Alberta spend more time using digital devices daily (12.5 hours on average) than 35 to 54-year-olds (11 hours on average) and those aged 55+ (8.5 hours on average).

According to a recent survey, 70 per cent of Calgarians experience symptoms such as headaches, blurred vision and sensitivity to light as a result of using a digital device.

  • Other symptoms of digital eye strain include eye irritation, double vision, excessive tearing or dry eyes and excessive blinking or squinting.
  • According to the survey, tired eyes is the most common symptom Calgarians experience, with 52 per cent of respondents stating they experience tired eyes as a result of using a digital device.
  • Many people may be experiencing symptoms, but may not realize the problems are being caused by digital eye strain. Regular visits to an optometrist will ensure these symptoms are being detected early and simple changes are made to alleviate the discomfort.
  • During a comprehensive eye exam, an optometrist can determine if the symptoms are a result of digital eye strain or a more serious eye health concern.

While digital eye strain is a serious concern with sometimes debilitating symptoms, it is often simple to prevent and treat with help from an optometrist.

  • Based on the patient’s digital device habits, a doctor of optometry can recommend a customized solution to help prevent the adverse effects of digital eye strain.
  • An optometrist may recommend computer glasses, which can help reduce eye fatigue. A blue-light filter can be applied to prescription or non-prescription lenses to minimize the amount of blue light that reaches the eye.
  • The survey shows that 75 per cent of Calgarians are not aware that computer glasses are available, and only six per cent of Calgarians use blue-light lenses.
  • Further, there are every-day preventative measures that can be taken to help reduce the risks of digital eye strain:
    • Follow the 20-20-20 rule by looking 20 feet away every 20 minutes for 20 seconds. Only 16 per cent of Calgarians follow the 20-20-20 rule.
    • Eliminate screen glare by reducing overhead lighting. Only 26 per cent of Calgarians eliminate screen glare by reducing overhead lighting.
    • Position the computer slightly below eye level and at arm’s length. Only 40 per cent of Calgarians have their computer properly positioned.
    • Increase text size on digital devices. Only 36 per cent of Calgarians increase the text size.
    • Adjust screen brightness. Just over half of Calgarians (51 per cent) adjust screen brightness.

Regular eye exams by a doctor of optometry play an essential role in maintaining your overall health. Optometrists help diagnose, treat and help prevent diseases and disorders affecting the visual system, the eye and related structures. They also assist in identifying underlying health conditions that are often first detected through an eye exam, and they can provide referrals to specialists and other health-care professionals.

  • The Alberta Association of Optometrists recommends that adults have an eye exam every two years, and annually for those over 65. Children should have at least one eye exam between the ages of two and five, and yearly after starting school. Infants should have their first eye exam between six and nine months of age.
  • Alberta Health covers the cost of annual eye exams for children up to age 19 and adults 65 and older. Medically necessary visits to an optometrist for situations such as an eye infection or injury, foreign object in the eye or sudden changes in vision are covered for all Albertans.

For more information about digital eye strain and to find an optometrist, visit
Please note: The survey data applies to those aged 18 and over.
Survey methodology: An online omnibus survey was conducted between April 20-21, 2017. Eight hundred and four Albertans aged 18 and over were surveyed. The estimated margin of error for the Calgary sample is +/- 5.8%.