How To Combat Eye Fatigue

If you’ve been working from home the last few months or are just staying at home more, your screen time has probably increased dramatically. All those hours in front of a screen can lead to eye fatigue, eye strain, headaches, and even disrupted sleep as blue light affects your natural circadian rhythm.

There’s been a big focus on the unintended impact of public health measures on mental health in recent months, but let’s not lose sight of eye health too. Here are a few ways to reduce eye fatigue when working from home and some quick eye care tips and supplements to support healthy vision.

1. Look up from your screen

It sounds simple, but this is one of the most effective ways to reduce eye strain when working from home. Looking up every 20 minutes to focus for 20 seconds on something 20 feet away, allows the eyes to flex different muscles.

When you look at something close up for hours at a time, namely your computer screen, your eyes have to use the same muscles and ligaments to keep the screen in focus. This can quickly lead to eye fatigue. Give your close vision a break. Spend a few minutes every hour looking at a tree or mountain in the distance. Or, if you’re in a high-rise city apartment, look down and watch the world going by below!

2. Use a blue light filter

A range of software and apps now exist to help reduce your exposure to damaging blue light. Highest during daytime hours, blue wavelength light tells your body to stay awake. Too much of this light later in the day, though, can fool your body into still feeling awake at bedtime. Your body naturally makes more melatonin once the sun goes down, and light is predominantly in the warmer, red wavelength. By artificially inhibiting melatonin production, blue light makes it harder for you to fall asleep and get a good night’s rest.

Installing an automated blue light filter on your devices means that the screen filters out blue light once the sun goes down. This helps you start to unwind from the day and reduce how much damaging blue light reaches your eyes. 

3. Protect your eyes with natural carotenoids

Blue light also increases the generation of free radicals in eye tissue, which can damage the retina and is associated with the development of cataracts and macular degeneration. To mop up these free radicals requires specialized antioxidants called lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin that concentrate in the eyes and filter this light.[1]

Together, these three carotenoids are referred to as macular pigment (MP), and research suggests that a higher MP level helps protect against the negative effects of aging on vision.[2,3] Meso-zeaxanthin is the most powerful antioxidant of the three, but these macular carotenoids exhibit the greatest antioxidant potential when working together.[4]

Numerous studies have found that supplementing with lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin helps increase macular pigment optical density (MPOD), suggesting improved protection against harmful blue light (Stringham & Stringham, 2016). In one study involving 48 healthy young adults exposed to six or more hours of near-field screen time each day, those taking these three antioxidants daily for six months had significant improvements in MPOD as well as improved overall sleep quality, fewer headaches, and reduced eye strain and eye fatigue, with improvements in all visual performance measures compared to a matched group receiving a placebo (Stringham et al., 2017).

4. Check air quality and humidity

Eye fatigue and dry eyes can result from poor air quality and air that’s too dry and stuffy. If you’ve been relegated to a cramped home office with little air flow, consider working outside in the shade when the weather is nice. If that’s not an option, you can open windows and run a fan on a low setting to encourage air flow.

 You might also want to invest in a few leafy green potted plants for your new office as these can greatly enhance air quality, and give you something nice to look at during those screen breaks! And if the air is too dry, use a humidifier or keep a bowl of warm water on your desk to help add moisture to the air nearby.

5. Moisturize your eyes!

It might sound strange, but healthy eyes need a healthy dose of the right kind of moisture. Too much screen time can interfere with our normal blinking process, which helps clean our eyes and keep them from drying out. If your eyes feel gritty after hours staring at a screen, consider getting a little natural help from omega-3 fatty acids.

Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) decrease tear evaporation and increase tear secretion, helping reduce dry eye.[5] In one study using data from more than 32,000 women, a higher dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids was associated with a 17% reduced risk of dry eye syndrome.[6]

Fish oil is a rich source of EPA and DHA, and people who eat fish regularly (at least once a week) have been seen to have a lower risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts.[7,8,9]

EPA and DHA, which can be found in fish oil and algal oil supplements, are also associated with improvements in dry eye syndrome, including tear osmolarity, tear breakup time, and ocular bulb redness.[5,10] In a large placebo-controlled double-blind trial, computer workers taking 360 mg of EPA and 240 mg of DHA daily for three months had significant improvement in symptoms of dry eye syndrome.[11]

6. Get your eyes checked regularly

Finally, if it has been a while since you’ve seen an ophthalmologist, now is the time to go get your eyes tested. Even if you’re not experiencing any specific vision problems, regular check-ups can help spot other health issues early. And it may turn out that a slight adjustment to your lens prescription, or the use of reading glasses, could dramatically reduce eye fatigue and eye strain.



[1] Bone RA, Landrum JT, Friedes LM, et al. Distribution of lutein and zeaxanthin stereoisomers in the human retina. Exp Eye Res. 1997; 64(2), 211-8.

[2] Beatty S, Koh H, Phil M, et al. The role of oxidative stress in the pathogenesis of age-related macular degeneration. Surv Ophthalmol. 2000; 45(2):115-34.

[3] Kirschfeld K. Carotenoid pigments. Their possible role in protecting against photooxidation in eyes and photoreceptor cells. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 1982;  216(1202):71-85.         Please revise reference to Vancover  Style

[4] Nolan JM, Meagher K, Kashani S, et al. What is meso-zeaxanthin, and where does it come from? Eye. 2013; 27(8):899-905.

[5] Deinema LA, Vingrys AJ, Wong CY, et al. A randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled clinical trial of two forms of omega-3 supplements for treating dry eye disease. Ophthalmology. 2017; 124(1):43-52. Please revise to Vancouver Style

[6] Miljanovic B, Trivedi KA, Dana MR, et al. Relation between dietary n-3 and n-6 fatty acids and clinically diagnosed dry eye syndrome in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005; 82:887-93.

[7] Lu M, Cho E, Taylor A, et al. Prospective study of dietary fat and risk of cataract extraction among US women. Am J Epidemiol. 2005; 161:948-59.

[8] Chua B, Flood V, Rochtchina E, et al. Dietary fatty acids and the 5-year incidence of age-related maculopathy. Arch Ophthalmol. 2006; 124(7):981-6.

[9] Augood C, Chakravarthy U, Young I, et al. Oily fish consumption, dietary docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid intakes, and associations with neovascular age-related macular degeneration. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008; 88(2):398-406.

[10] Kangari H, Eftekhari MH, Sardari S, et al. Short-term consumption of oral omega-3 and dry eye syndrome. Ophthalmology. 2013; 120(11):2191-6.

[11] Bhargava R, Kumar P, Phogat H, et al. Oral omega-3 fatty acids treatment in computer vision syndrome related dry eye. Cont Lens Anterior Eye. 2015; 38(3):206-10.  s/b Vancouver Style

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