Vision Fatigue

The following information was compiled following a collaborative research project conducted in 2004 by Associate Professor Kerry Fitzmaurice (Head of the School of Orthoptics at La Trobe University), Dr Gillian Gale (Special Education Consultant) and Deb Lewis (Manager, Statewide Vision Resource Centre).

Signs and symptoms of vision fatigue

  • avoidance of visual activity
  • blurred vision
  • double vision
  • headaches
  • inability to change focus from near to far objects and vice versa
  • increase in nystagmus
  • loss of concentration
  • sore eyes
  • watering eyes

The student is likely to experience vision fatigue 5-10 minutes after starting a vision-related activity. The differences in onset can vary with:

  • the time of day
  • intensity and type of visual activity
  • previous exposure to the task eg knowledge of vocabulary and subject matter of the reading matter; whether the task is a test
  • lighting and glare

A number of eye conditions can are particularly associated with vision fatigue, including:

  • aniridia
  • coloboma
  • congenital nystagmus
  • deteriorating central vision
  • ocular albinism

Helping students to minimise vision fatigue

  • allow student to take a short vision break within the classroom
  • intersperse reading/writing tasks with oral or aural discussion/lecture sessions where ever possible
  • if glare is a problem, allow student to move to a darker area in the room or lower the blinds
  • provide worksheets in a ‘sans serif’ font such as ARIAL or TAHOMA in a size no smaller than the recommended sustainable print size
  • allow extra time or reduce quantity of vision task

Suggestions for students to delay the onset of vision fatigue

  • learn to touch type and use key commands
  • optimise your computer for best visual access
  • use a different reading method such as large print, a magnifier or audio
  • mask out some of the print on the page or computer screen to reduce visual clutter
  • change the lighting conditions eg use a near soft light, move closer to the natural light of the windows, or create more shade on the page
  • alter position or posture by using a reading stand
  • take a break by removing glasses, closing eyes, looking outside, going to toilet, having a drink, resting head in arms on desk etc
  • look away from the visual task for 30 seconds or so
  • gently massage forehead, temples and eye brows
  • avoid glare
  • use relaxation techniques eg yoga, or consciously relaxing muscles which are tense
  • close eyes and imagine a “favourite” place
  • “cup” hands over eyes – the hands should not touch the eyes or lids; imagine black while doing this
  • consciously remember to blink

For further information see About Vision.