Eye Strain: Symptoms, Causes and Management

By Eyecare NG

Overview  |  Symptoms   |  Causes   |   Management 

Overview

Eye strain which is medically called asthenopia is a group of non-specific symptoms people experience as a result of extended use of the eyes or when they are involved in intense visual tasks. People often complain of eye strain after reading, driving, using the computer or while watching television for a long period of time.

Eye strain is usually associated with tiredness. It can be discomforting and may be of serious concern to people who experience it but it does not cause any permanent damage to the eyes. It usually goes away after resting the eyes without any consequences.

Sometimes, eye strain may be as a result of some underlying conditions like refractive errors and binocular vision anomalies. Treatment or correction of the underlying conditions usually relieves the eye strain.

Symptoms 

  • Headaches
  • Brow aches
  • Feeling of dryness
  • Eye fatigue
  • Eye pains
  • Double vision
  • Blurry vision
  • Slight redness

Causes 

Some causes of eye strain include:

  • Over contraction of the ciliary muscles: The ciliary muscles are circular muscles in the eye that control the ability of the lens to change its focusing power at different distances by contracting and relaxing. Overstretching the ciliary muscle during an extended visual task can get them fatigued resulting in eyestrain.
  • Staring extensively at a digital device: When people work on the computer screen or watch television, they don’t blink often resulting in the dryness of the front surface of the eyes. This is often reported as eyestrain. A group of conditions experienced by computer users is known as computer vision syndrome.
  • The inability of the two eyes to work perfectly together: Vision disorders that affect the ability of the two eyes to work together (binocular vision anomalies) can cause eye strain. This is because they put a lot of strain on the muscles of the eyes in a bid to avoid double vision.
  • Refractive errors: In the presence of uncorrected refractive errors, people compensate by squinting and squeezing their facial muscles, most times unconsciously in order to have improved vision. The squinting and squeezing overworks the muscles of the face and those in the eye resulting in eye strain.

Management

Proper management of eye strain requires identifying the root cause and taking care of it. Hence, you may need to see your eye doctor for diagnosis and care if your symptoms are persistent. Here are some options for the management of eye strain:

  • If eye strain is due to an uncorrected refractive error, correction of the error with appropriate lenses as well as the proper use of the lenses will take care of the strain. In the same manner correction of binocular vision anomalies with lenses or vision therapy will take care of eye strain
  • While using the computer and other digital devices, there is need to blink consciously and also take breaks intermittently from these devices. Applying the 20:20:20 rule is recommended to prevent eye strain. This means that for every 20 minutes of computer use, you should take 20 seconds breaks and look at something else at about a distance of 20 feet away from you.
  • In the absence of any refractive error or binocular vision anomaly, you may need special glasses with anti-reflective coating and blue light filters for more comfortable computer use.
  • Changing room illumination as well as adjusting digital device resolution, brightness and contrast to reduce glare can help relieve eyestrain.

Ultimately, giving your eyes some rest is the most important way to prevent eye strain.