Eye Strain

Although eye strains are typically harmless, they can be an indication of an underlying problem. Learn about the causes of eye strain and what you can do to relieve the symptoms.

Eye strain, or Asthenopia, is when the eyes get tired from excessive or intense use. It can be annoying, but tends to disappear with rest. Although it’s not a serious condition, eye straining could be a sign or symptom of an underlying problem. Eye strain is known to make you tired, make it difficult to concentrate, and to cause headaches.

Eye Strain Symptoms

Other than noticing you have to strain your eyes to see anything, there are other symptoms to look out for, such as:

Computer usage can also add additional symptoms such as:

  • Difficulty going from paper to monitor screen.
  • Afterimages when looking away from monitor screen.

Causes of Strained Eyes

Symptoms usually begin to occur after excessive or extended computer usage, reading, straining your eyes in dim lighting, or during activities that involve visual tasks. The most common reason for strained eyes is Computer Vision Syndrome, which is basically using a computer for a long period of time, causing eyesight and vision changes. Causes of strained eyes include:

  • Computer Vision Syndrome
  • Headaches
  • Underlying Problems
  • Environment
  • Lack of Blinking
  • Being in Low Light Situations

Underlying problems can include:

  • Refractive Error (uncorrected vision)
  • Eye Muscle Imbalance

Eye Strain Can Lead to Other Problems

Different from the cause or reason for the eye straining, eye strains may lead to many different problems, such as:

  • Headaches
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Lack of Motivation
  • Burning Sensation
  • Watery Eyes
  • Dry Eyes
  • Photophobia
  • Eye Pain

Treatment For Eye Strain

Change – The first thing you can do is change your environment and/or work habits. By doing this you can help yourself relieve the pain without spending money on treatment. If you’re in a dry environment, try using a humidifier. If you work on the computer try taking more “eye breaks.”

Treat Underlying Cause – If there’s an underlying cause such as refractive error, get treatment for it. Talk with your eye care professional as soon as possible to discuss options for treatment.

Eye Exams - You should be getting your eyes checked at least once a year, especially as you grow older. Routine eye exams give you the opportunity to discuss issues you may be having with your eye care professional, as well as catch problems while they’re in the earlier stages.

Better Rx – If you do spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer or reading, maybe you need prescription glasses solely for those activities. These aren’t eyewear for constant usage, only during these activities.

Preventing Eye Strain

Taking eye breaks for 5 minutes every hour can really improve the amount of strain you put on your eyes. Simply closing your eyes for a few moments can also do wonders. Try standing up, moving around or taking a short walk to help gain concentration back. Regular eye exercises that involve focusing on different distances can help prevent future straining. Blink often. Blinking refreshes and replenishes your eyes naturally. If you are having trouble with blinking due to the dryness of your eyes, try using artificial tears without preservatives. If the eye drops do contain preservatives, do not use them more than four times per day.

  • Mayo Clinic, Eye Strain, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/eyestrain/DS01084
  • CNN, Eye Strain, http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/library/eyestrain/DS01084.html
This article was last updated on 08/2013