Everything You Need to Know About Eye Strain

Do your eyes itch, burn, or feel heavy at the end of the day? Does the pain you feel in your eyes ever lead to migraines or neck aches? Does it prevent you from driving, working, or leaving your house? If you answered “yes” to any (or all) of these questions, you might suffer from eye strain.

About a month ago, we published a blog about screen-related eye strain that detailed the threats computer, TV, and smartphone screens pose to your vision. Because screens aren’t the only source of eye strain, we now want to take a more in-depth look at this condition and the problems this condition poses.

What Is Eye Strain?

Eye strain, also known as asthenopia, occurs when the eyes become fatigued and tired after prolonged, intense use. It isn’t serious in most cases, but if left unchecked, it could contribute to premature aging.

What Causes Eye Strain?

As mentioned above, screen time isn’t the only source of eye strain. Anything that puts prolonged, persistent pressure on the eyes can cause eye strain. In addition to screen time, common causes of eye strain include:

  • Extensive driving, particularly when it is sunny
  • Reading or writing for several hours
  • Exposure to bright light or glare, including sunlight
  • Straining to focus in dim light
  • Infrequent blinking
  • Sleep deprivation

Preexisting eye conditions, such as uncorrected vision or a muscle imbalance, can also contribute to eye strain.

What Are the Symptoms of Eye Strain?

This condition’s name comes from its most common symptom: eye strain. If you constantly strain to see everything, chances are you suffer from this problem. Other common symptoms include:

  • Pain and tenderness around the eyes
  • Heavy, droopy eyelids
  • Blurred and/or double vision
  • Burning, itchy eyes
  • Red, dry eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Pain in the neck, shoulders, and/or back
  • Irritability
  • Decreased productivity and concentration

Because your eyes nourish and replenish themselves while you sleep, sleep deprivation will intensify these symptoms.

Is It Possible to Treat and Prevent Eye Strain?

Eye strain can cause severe discomfort and pain. Fortunately, you can do a variety of things to treat and prevent it. All you need to do is make a few simple changes to your environment, habits, and eye care routine.

Changes to Your Environment

Do you notice yourself straining only when you’re on the clock? Only when you’re at home? Whatever the case, take steps to make your environment a little more eye-friendly.

  • Change the lighting around you to reduce reflections and glare.
  • Sit in more supportive furniture. Whether you read at home or write reports at the office, the chairs you sit in should support your back and allow you to sit up straight.
  • Be mindful of the humidity in your home and office. If your eyes consistently dry out, they’ll become more susceptible to eye strain. Buy a humidifier to keep your eyes moisturized.

Changes to Your Work Habits

Whether you grade papers or drive a cab all day, you can make several changes to your work habits to alleviate the stress on your eyes.

  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule to prevent eye strain and fatigue. Look away from whatever you focus on every 20 minutes, then focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
  • Blink more often. You probably don’t pay a lot of attention to how often you blink, but if you suffer from eye strain, you should start. Each time you blink, your eyes receive much-needed nutrients and moisture. So the less often you blink, the less nutrients your eyes will receive and the more strained they will become.
  • Take regular breaks from your work. Stand up, leave your work station, and walk around every hour or so to give your eyes time to recharge.

Changes to Your Eye Care Routine

Thanks to technological advancements, your eyes are constantly surrounded by bright lights, garish screens, and other intense stimuli. As result, you can suffer from eye strain even when you try to relax. Make the following changes to your routine to help keep your eyes healthy.

  • Take time to relax. Because your eyes are in constant use, they often hold a lot of tension. Listen to soothing music, meditate, or take naps ever day to provide your eyes with valuable rest and relaxation.
  • Massage your eyelids, eyebrows, upper cheeks, and temples 2-3 times per day to alleviate tension in the area.
  • Get more sleep. The average adult needs 7 hours of sleep each night, so if you get less, your eyes might suffer.

When Should You See a Doctor About Eye Strain?

Although eye strain is, in most cases, preventable and treatable, it can be a symptom of a more serious eye condition. Contact an optometrist right away if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Persistent migraines or the course of several weeks
  • Severe eye discomfort, including redness, itchiness, and sensitivity
  • Noticeable changes in vision, such as spotting or blurriness
  • Double vision

Because prolonged pain and pressure on the eyes could lead to permanent retinal damage, you shouldn’t take eye strain lightly. Contact an optometrist or retinal specialist if your eyestrain symptoms don’t subside after you try the treatments above.