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How to Combat Computer Eye Strain

How to Combat Computer Eye Strain

What happens to our eyesight when we sit in front of a computer all day?

As researchers from the SUNY College of Optometry note, the rise in computer screens “has led to an increase in ocular and visual problems, including eye discomfort, blurring of distant objects, eye strain, and asthenopia (visual fatigue).” This has caused so-called “nearwork-induced transient myopia.” That’s when after staring at a computer screen for a while we look out the window and things start out all blurry. Our vision becomes blurred because our poor little ciliary muscles pulling at our lens are locked in this constant state of contraction to keep that near focus. Over time, this may have long-term adverse consequences.

How to Combat Computer Eye Strain

Experts in the field recommend taking 4-12 minute breaks staring out the window every hour.

We can also aid our vision with our diet. A double-blind placebo-controlled crossover study, for example, found a significant improvement in refractive values and eyestrain symptoms when subjects ate black currants compared to a placebo.

However, what passes for currants in the U.S. are usually champagne grape raisins, not actual black currants, which were banned in the U.S. a century ago at the behest of the lumber industry. The lumber industry feared that they might spread a plant disease that affects white pine (which we hardly even harvest any more). Black currants are, however, currently making a comeback (and the ban has been lifted in some states), though any anthocyanin-rich berry might have similar benefits (such as bilberries, blueberries, cranberries, black raspberries and red raspberries).

Foods vs. Supplements

Why bother with whole bilberries or black currants when we could just take powder capsules? Because, as we’ve seen over and over again, when we test supplements, we’re lucky if they actually contain what is listed on the label. Furthermore, even for products containing bilberries, one study found that labeling was often uninformative, misleading, or both, something or which the herbal supplement market is infamous. The largest study to date found that it appears most herbal supplement labels lie.

A Brief History of Bilberries

Bilberries gained notoriety during World War II when it was said that pilots in the British Royal Air Force “were eating bilberry jam to improve their night vision.” It turns out this may have been a story concocted to fool the Germans. The real reason the Brits were able to suddenly target Nazi bombers in the middle of the night before the bombers even made it to the English channel was likely not because of bilberries, but because of a top secret new invention the British needed to keep quiet: radar.

For best results when it comes to computer eye strain, stick to whole berries with blue and red pigments, and don’t forget to give your eyes a break each hour.

For other videos on protecting our vision, check out Greens vs. Glaucoma, where I listed the best foods to help prevent glaucoma; in Dietary Prevention of Age-Related Macular Degeneration I did the same for age-related macular degeneration. I’ve also addressed the Dietary Treatment of Glaucoma.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death and More Than an Apple a Day.


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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at


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10:09AM PST on Nov 21, 2014

thanks for very helpful article

4:57AM PDT on Sep 18, 2014

I try to get up and walk around at least every hour or so. I also have a window right beside me and like to see what it's doing out side. I also like to watch the birds and the butterflies along with my cats (LOL)!!

3:58AM PDT on Jul 21, 2014

thank you for sharing

11:00PM PDT on Jul 20, 2014


9:09AM PDT on Jul 18, 2014

Care2 is so slow on my computer that I can almost go out for a walk till the page show up...

2:22AM PDT on Jul 18, 2014

I read Meir Schneider's book, "Movement for Self-Healing" many years ago. He explained that using the eyes for near vision, like reading, is very hard on them and suggested that we should often look into the distance, especially outside. Also on the computer, blink and breathe and again take breaks to look into the distance-- also use your peripheral vision at times while using a computer. He also suggested palming while taking deep breaths. He didn't however mention to eat the wonderful berries of the season, so thank you, Dr. Greger. Good post.

6:19AM PDT on Jul 13, 2014

Thanks for sharing

9:57PM PDT on Jul 8, 2014

im working everyday on least 6 hours.thats right.try to didnt too focus on computer.every 30 minutes,i see some plants with greeny colour outside of my house and then back to the computer again

7:29AM PDT on Jul 8, 2014

That can't be 4 12-minute breaks every hour can it? So it must be 4 to 12-minute breaks (and if so, how many)? It should be easier to just get up and walk around every half-hour or so...

1:18PM PDT on Jul 7, 2014


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