What is Eye Strain and How Can I Prevent It?

We’ve all experienced eye strain at some point in our lives. With the digitally evolving world that we’re all living in, and many of us spending more time online, it’s only to be expected. We’re exposed to computers, smart phones, tablets… The list goes on.

But eye strain isn’t just caused by screens. There are other causes too.

So, what is eye strain exactly? What are the causes and how can you prevent it? Read on to find out.

What is eye strain?

Eye strain, otherwise known as asthenopia, refers to a range of symptoms that can be experienced as a result of looking at something for a long period of time. Although it can be uncomfortable, the good news is that it isn’t permanent and doesn’t lead to permanent eye damage.

Eye strain symptoms aren’t uncommon either. A recent study showed that 1 in 3 people noticed deterioration in their eyesight as a result of increased screen time during the pandemic. That’s why booking regular check-ups with your optometrist is so important.

Eye strain causes

Eye strain will often occur when the eyes are focused on a task or a digital device for a prolonged period of time. Common causes of eye strain also include:

  • Driving for long periods of time
  • Driving in the dark
  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Reading without resting your eyes
  • Exposure to bright light

Digital eye strain is particularly common, especially amongst people who work in office-based jobs or experience prolonged exposure to screens during any given time. If you have any concerns regarding your eyesight, remember that we are here to help.

Eye strain symptoms

Eye strain symptoms are varied and can differ from person to person. You don’t need to have all these symptoms to have eye strain.

Symptoms can include:

  • Headaches
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Dry eyes
  • Twitching eyelids
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Sore, tired, burning or itchy eyes

How to prevent eye strain

Whether you’re frequently exposed to screens or find that you suffer with eye strain when completing tasks for a prolonged period of time, it is preventable. Regular eye examinations are essential for optimal eye health. Your optometrist will also check the overall health of your eyes and look for signs of any underlying medical conditions.

Besides booking routine eye examinations, there are other ways you can prevent eye strain.

Eye exercises

Eye exercises are very common and your optometrist may recommend them if you struggle with eye strain.

A well-known eye exercise is the 20:20:20 Rule. This is a technique often recommended for screen users who suffer with computer eye strain. If you spend a lot of time looking at your screen or you’ve been heads deep in a book for a while, try and take a small break every 20 minutes to focus your eyes on something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.

This will help your eye muscles relax and should help offset the likelihood of experiencing computer eye strain or normal eye strain.

For screen users, there are other ways you can prevent computer eye strain:

  • Adjust your screen brightness.
  • Reduce glare with an anti-glare screen, wear glasses with an anti-reflective coating or reduce external light from windows.
  • Modify your workstation by ensuring that your monitor and chair are at the correct height. Your computer screen should also be 20-24 inches from your eyes and the centre of the screen should be 10-15 degrees below your eye line.
  • Wear prescription lenses specifically for screen use.
  • If you wear contact lenses, consider wearing glasses whenever you’re using screens as your eyes can become dry and irritated with contact lenses.

Eye strain treatment

Eye strain isn’t enjoyable and is quite often uncomfortable. Here’s a few ways you can reduce or alleviate the symptoms of eye strain completely:

  • Give your eyes plenty of rest: Life can be so busy sometimes that we often forget to stop and take a moment to reset. Even though you might not be able to close your eyes for long, take a few seconds to close them when possible.
  • Take frequent breaks: For screen users, you can use the 20:20:20 rule. However, overall, avoid working and reading in poorly lit conditions and try and use natural light sources where possible such as sunlight.
  • Limit your use of computers and mobile phones: We understand that this might not be possible for everyone, but if you work on a screen all day, try and limit time on your phone in the evening. You can also adjust the brightness on both devices.

The bottom line

Remember, whilst eye strain is preventable, it should never be ignored.

If you’re suffering with eye strain, your optometrist can help and even recommend specific eye strain treatment to alleviate your symptoms.

By implementing these tips and educating yourself on eye strain, you can minimise the effects of it before it becomes worse. Our team are on hand to help whenever you need us too.