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Preventing Eye Strain: The 20-20-20 Rule Reminder

Medically reviewed by Victor Paulino, MD, DPBO · Ophthalmology · Makati Medical Center

Written by Ruby Anne Hornillos · Updated Feb 17, 2022

Preventing Eye Strain: The 20-20-20 Rule Reminder

If you struggle with eye strains, it could be from looking at screens all day. The 20-20-20 rule reminder could help you out and prevent future headaches. Here is a quick look at everything you need to know about it.

What is the 20-20-20 Rule Reminder?

The 20-20-20 rule is when you look at an item that is about 20 feet away for around 20 seconds. You can do this about every 20 minutes of looking at a screen. This includes your phone, computer, television, etc. 

An alternative method is to close your eyes for about 20 seconds. You should also try to blink regularly to potentially prevent dry eyes. 

How Does the 20-20-20 Rule Work?

 The American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests that people try the 20-20-20 rule because it could decrease eye strain. It was found that the eyes usually completely relax after about 20 seconds.

A 2013 study focused on computer vision syndrome -also known as digital eye strain – and how to prevent its symptoms. It is a condition caused by prolonged screen usage, which can lead to

  • Eyestrain
  • Headache
  • Blurry vision
  • Shoulder pain and neck pain
  • Dry eyes
  • Double vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Eye discomfort
  • Eye fatigue
  • Itchy eyes
  • Red eyes
  • Teary eyes

These symptoms arise due to the possible factors

  • Poor posture
  • The bright glare of the screen
  • Not wearing the proper eyeglasses or contact lenses
  • Poorly lit room
  • Being seated too close or too far from the screen
  • Combination of the factors.
  • The study had 795 students, and about 89.9% had reported experiencing symptoms of computer vision syndrome. The study explored different methods to reduce eye strain.

    By the end of the study, results showed that students experienced a decrease in computer vision syndrome by simply following the 20-20-20 rule. Radiation filters on their screens were not helpful.

    To further prevent eyestrain, during your breaks after 20 minutes of screen time, doctors recommend using the time to hydrate, stretch, and move around a bit. This is helpful in preventing neck and backaches.  

    Does the 20-20-20 Rule Reminder Work for Kids?

    Similar to adults, children need to give their eyes a break as well. The 20-20-20 rule reminder could be beneficial for kids’ eyes as well.

    Children may not notice eye strain as quickly as adults would as they may get too caught up in their screens. However, parents should be mindful of their kid’s digital consumption. 

    Limit their use and encourage other forms of play and entertainment that may be more beneficial to their health.

    Is the Rule a Real Cure for Eye Strain?

    The 20-20-20 rule is a good habit that can help you prevent or decrease the symptoms of computer vision syndrome. It is especially helpful for people who are in front of screens for 2 hours a day or longer.

    It is not an absolute cure for eye strain. However, it can be helpful if you deal with occasional eye strain.

    If you experience bad eye strains, which lead to painful headaches, very blurry vision, and the like, consult your doctor. More than eye strain, you may need to be assessed for prescription glasses. Often, those who experience eye strain may also suffer from nearsightedness or farsightedness.

    Key Takeaways

    It is encouraged that you limit your screen time. But if it cannot be avoided, take mindful breaks every 20 minutes or so to give your eyes a break. By simply closing your eyes or looking at objects in the distance, you can greatly reduce the instances of eye strain. 

    Learn more about Eye Care here. 


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Victor Paulino, MD, DPBO

    Ophthalmology · Makati Medical Center

    Written by Ruby Anne Hornillos · Updated Feb 17, 2022

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