Eyestrain and VDT's
is another ergonomic problem frequently associated with the use of computers and Video
Display Terminals (VDTs). Keep in mind that the solutions presented here are only
recommendations. If following these recommendations seems to make matters worse, try
something else! If you aren't experiencing headaches or eyestrain while you work at the
computer, don't worry about making changes; obviously your setup works for you. As the
saying goes, "you don't need to fix what isn't broken."
Symptoms of eyestrain may be:
- Sore, tired, itchy, dry, or burning eyes
- Difficulty focusing between the VDT and source documents
- Blurred or double vision
- Color fringes / after images
- Increased sensitivity to light
These symptoms may be caused by:
lighting: If the light in the work area is too bright or too dim, the human eye has to
work extra hard to compensate for these harsh environmental factors. People may not even
be aware that their eyes are under duress, but over time they may develop symptoms of
- Solution: Use indirect, ambient lighting and an
adjustable light source at the desk, where extra illumination is required.
Glare can be caused by sources of light such as windows, lamps, or overhead lighting.
at your monitor screen to see if there are any bright blotches of light. While you may not
be conscious of this irritation, it can cause eyestrain over the course of a long day.
Glare can also be caused by too much contrast between the screen background and the
- Solution: Adjust your monitor so that it is not
reflecting the light source. Tilt the monitor down so that it doesn't reflect overhead
lights, or move it perpendicular to windows. Close shades or blinds if the computer cannot
be moved. Move lamps so that they are not reflected directly in the monitor. Use glare
Many computer users wear bifocals or trifocal lenses fitted for reading print and
distance viewing. Sometimes these prescriptions may not be adequate for computer work.
- Solution: If you wear glasses of any sort and
frequently experience headaches while working at a computer, you should probably check
with your eye doctor to make sure you are wearing the correct prescription for such work.
angle and distance: If your monitor is too far away, you may have to strain to read
the print. Likewise, if it is too close, you may also strain your eyes. If the monitor is
too high, you will have to angle your neck to look up at it, which could cause your neck
to be sore, and may contribute to headaches. Also, when you are continually looking up,
you may not fully close your eyes when you blink, and this can cause your eyes to dry out.
- Solution: Some literature will suggest keeping the
monitor between 18-30 inches from the user, with the first line of text just slightly
below eye level. However, you should always find out what is most comfortable to you. You
may also want the keyboard directly in front of the monitor. If the keyboard/monitor is
off to one side, the distance to the monitor may be slightly different for each eye,
causing them to focus separately.
focus on the screen: When people concentrate, they blink less often. Sometimes they
concentrate so hard that they blink only once per minute, instead of the normal once every
five seconds. This, too, will cause the eyes to dry out and become irritated.
- Solution: Take micro-breaks! Frequently look up from
your monitor and focus on an object several feet away. Make a conscious effort to blink.
and document holder location: If the document holder is below the VDT or off to the
side, each time your eyes look from one source to the other, your pupils have to adjust.
If you have to do this for long periods of time, it can cause headaches and eyestrain.
- Solution: Place document holder at the same level,
angle, and distance as the screen to avoid having to shift eye focus.
on screen: A buildup of dust on the screen can make it hard to distinguish characters.
This may also contribute to glare and reflection problems.
- Solution: Dust off your monitor every day.
Just remember, everyone is different, so find out what works for you!
Links to Eyestrain and VDT Information
Computers and Eyestrain
Strain (Typing Injury FAQ)
Tendonitis (Dr. David F. Sucher)
from Video and Computer Monitors (Charles A Poynton)
How to Avoid a Painful Desk Job (Univ Virginia EHS)
Video Display Terminals
What Is Ergonomics?
Cumulative Trauma Disorders