What is eyestrain?
Eyestrain is a common condition that makes your eyes get tired from intense use, such as driving a car for extended periods, reading, or working at the computer.
Eye fatigue is rarely a serious condition. Common sense precautions at home, work, and outdoors may help prevent or reduce eye fatigue. But sometimes eye fatigue is a sign of an underlying condition that you may need medical treatment.
How common is eyestrain?
Eyestrain is extremely common. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of eyestrain?
The common symptoms of eyestrain are:
- Sore, tired, burning or itching eyes;
- Watery or dry eyes;
- Blurred or double vision;
- Sore neck, shoulders or back;
- Increased sensitivity to light;
- Difficulty concentrating;
- Feeling that you cannot keep your eyes open.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Double vision;
- Significant change in vision;
- Symptoms persist even after self-care.
What causes eyestrain?
- Looking at digital device screens.
- Reading without resting your eyes.
- Driving long distances and doing other activities involving extended focus.
- Being exposed to bright light or glare.
- Straining to see in very dim light.
- Having an underlying eye problem, such as dry eyes or uncorrected vision (refractive error).
- Being stressed or fatigued.
- Exposure to dry moving air from a fan, heating or air-conditioning system.
What increases my risk for eyestrain?
There are many risk factors for eyestrain, such as:
- Spending more than 4 hours per day in front of a computer screen.
- Engaging in other activities that make the eyes work hard, such as reading for extended time, or even watching too much TV.
- Living in a dry climate.
- Not usually check with your doctor to see if you need a refraction, basically an eye exam, for mid-length vision.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is eyestrain diagnosed?
Your eye doctor will ask you questions about factors that might be causing your symptoms. An eye exam may be performed to test your vision.
How is eyestrain treated?
Generally, treatment for eyestrain consists of making changes in your daily habits or environment. Some may need treatment for an underlying eye condition.
For some people, wearing glasses that are prescribed for specific activities, such as using a computer or reading, helps reduce eyestrain. Your doctor may suggest that you do regular eye exercises to help your eyes focus at different distances.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage eyestrain?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with eyestrain:
- Adjust the lighting. When watching television, it may be easier on your eyes if you keep the room softly lit. When reading printed materials or doing close work, try to position the light source behind you and direct the light onto your page or task. If you’re reading at a desk, use a shaded light positioned in front of you. The shade will keep light from shining directly into your eyes.
- Take breaks. When doing close work, take occasional breaks and ease muscle tension with relaxation exercises. Place your elbows on your desk, palms facing up. Let your weight fall forward and your head falls into your hands. Position your head so that your hands cover your eyes, with your fingers extended toward your forehead. Close your eyes and take a deep breath through your nose; hold it for four seconds, then exhale. Continue this deep breathing for 15 to 30 seconds. Perform this simple exercise several times a day.
- Limit screen time. This is especially important for children, who may not make the connection between extended viewing, eyestrain and the need to rest their eyes regularly.
- Use artificial tears. Over-the-counter artificial tears can help prevent and relieve dry eyes. Use them even when your eyes feel fine to keep them well-lubricated and prevent a recurrence of symptoms. Your doctor can suggest which drops might be best for you. Lubricating drops that don’t contain preservatives can be used as often as you need. If the drops you’re using contain preservatives, don’t use them more than four times a day. Avoid eye-drops with a redness remover, as these may worsen dry eye symptoms.
- Improve the air quality of your space. Some changes that may help prevent dry eyes include using a humidifier, adjusting the thermostat to reduce blowing air and avoiding smoke. If you smoke, consider quitting. Moving your chair to a different area may help reduce the amount of dry moving air on your eyes and face.
- Choose the right eyewear for you. If you need glasses or contacts and work at a computer, consider investing in glasses or contact lenses designed specifically for computer work. Ask your optometrist about lens coatings and tints that might help too. If you drive long distances, consider wearing sunglasses with polarized lenses and UV protection.
Computer use is a common cause of eyestrain. If you work at a desk and use a computer, these self-care steps can help take some of the strain off your eyes.
- Blink often to refresh your eyes. Many people blink less than usual when working at a computer, which can contribute to dry eyes. Blinking produces tears that moisten and refresh your eyes. Try to make it a habit of blinking more often when looking at a monitor.
- Take eye breaks. Throughout the day, give your eyes a break by looking away from your monitor. Try the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
- Check the lighting and reduce glare. Bright lighting and too much glare can strain your eyes and make it difficult to see objects on your monitor. The worst problems are generally from sources above or behind you, including fluorescent lighting and sunlight. Consider turning off some or all of the overhead lights. If you need light for writing or reading, use an adjustable desk lamp. And close blinds or shades and avoid placing your monitor directly in front of a window or white wall. Place an anti-glare cover over the screen.
- Adjust your monitor. Position your monitor directly in front of you about an arm’s length away so that the top of the screen is at or just below eyes level. It helps to have a chair you can adjust too.
- Use a document holder. If you need to refer to print material while you work on your computer, place them on a document holder. Some holders are designed to be placed between the keyboard and monitor; others are placed to the side. Find one that works for you. The goal is to reduce how much your eyes need to readjust and how often you turn your neck and head.
- Adjust your screen settings. Enlarge the type for easier reading. And adjust the contrast and brightness to a level that’s comfortable for you.
- Keep your screen clean. Wipe the dust from your computer screen regularly. Dust lowers contrast and contributes to glare and reflection problems.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: November 23, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017
Eye Strain. http://www.medicinenet.com/eye_strain/page3.htm. Accessed October 10, 2016.
Eye Fatigue. http://www.webmd.com/eye-health/eye-fatigue-causes-symptoms-treatment#1. Accessed October 10, 2016.
Eyestrain. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/eyestrain/basics/definition/con-20032649. Accessed October 10, 2016.