Eye Strain / Asthenopia — Causes and Treatment

Eye strain, or asthenopia, is when the eyes get tired from excessive or intense use. It can be annoying, but it tends to disappear with rest. Although it’s not often a serious condition, eye strain could be a symptom of an underlying problem. Eye strain is known to cause fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and headaches.

What Other Symptoms May Be Associated with Eye Strain?

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

Computer usage can also cause additional symptoms such as:

  • Difficulty focusing when looking from paper to monitor screen
  • Afterimages when looking away from monitor screen

Why do I Strain My Eyes?

Symptoms usually begin to appear after extended computer use, reading, straining your eyes in dim lighting, or during activities that involve prolonged visual tasks.

The most common reason for strained eyes is Computer Vision Syndrome, which is caused by using a computer for a long time. Other causes of strained eyes include:

  • Environment
  • Insufficient blinking
  • Being in low-light situations

Underlying problems can include:

  • Refractive error (uncorrected vision)
  • Eye muscle imbalance

Eye strain may lead to other problems, such as:

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

What Are the Treatment Options  for Eye Strain?

Change: The first thing you can do is change your environment and work habits. By doing this you can 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” by looking down the hall or out the window, or by closing your eyes for thirty seconds.

Treat the 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 get your eyes checked at least once a year, especially as you grow older. Routine eye exams give you the opportunity to discuss with your eye-care professional any issues you may be having, and they may enable you to catch any problems in their early stages.

Age Frequency
0 to 6 months Minimum of once a year
6 months to 18 years Every 2 – 4 years
19 to 39 years Every 3 – 5 years
40 to 64 years Every 2 – 4 years
65 and older Every 1 – 2 years

Better Rx: If you spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer or reading, you may need prescription glasses solely for those activities.

How Can I Prevent My Eyes From Straining?

If you work on a computer, taking eye breaks for five minutes every hour can lessen the strain 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 regain concentration.

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 your eye drops contain preservatives, do not use them more than four times per day.

Sources and References:
We have strict guidelines for each of our sources and references. We rely upon vision, eye and medical information from peer-reviewed studies, medical associations and academic research institions.
  • Mayo Clinic, Eye Strain, https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/eyestrain/DS01084
  • CNN, Eye Strain, https://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/library/eyestrain/DS01084.html