Eye Strain and the 20-20-20 Rule

What is eye strain?

Eye strain, also known as asthenopia, is a term used to describe discomfort after using your eyes to intensely focus on something for an extended period of time. The discomfort can range from feeling tired to experiencing pain in or around the eyes, blurred vision, and/or headaches. Eye strain is common in young people who are in school.


What activities can trigger eye strain?

The most common activities that can trigger eye strain are reading, computer work, or other activities that require focusing on something close to your face. Symptoms tend to be worse during periods of intense school work.


Why does eye strain occur?

When you concentrate on objects that are close to your face, the muscles inside the eyes tighten to keep things in focus. Just like your biceps get tired after holding a weight for a period of time, your eye muscles also get tired after staying tight for a period of time.


What can I do to prevent my child’s eye strain?

Here are a few ways to decrease eye strain for your child.

  • Make sure your child is using proper lighting.
  • Make sure that the desk and chair are the appropriate size for your child. Reading material should not be held too close to the face, but rather at a comfortable working distance with reading and writing material on the desk while sitting upright.
  • Your child should take frequent breaks to relax between periods of close work.
  • Your child can follow the 20-20-20 Rule.

What is the 20-20-20 Rule?

Taking a rest break at least every 20 minutes by looking away at a distance of at least 20 feet for 20 seconds. 


What if there is still eye strain despite following the advice above?

If your child is still experiencing eye strain, see your eye doctor for further evaluation. Your doctor will look for other possible causes of eye strain and discuss treatment options that are tailored for you.