Eye strain is a common condition where your eyes are exhausted from looking at a fixed point longer than your eye muscles can handle.
The “fixed point” can either be something far away, like driving for long hours at a time, to looking at a computer for many hours in one sitting.
When it comes to looking at digital devices such as computer monitors, laptops, tablets, or smartphones, it’s called digital eye strain or computer vision syndrome. Computer vision syndrome is just a fancy term for looking at your favorite digital device for too long without giving yourself a break.
While eye strain can be annoying, it’s usually nothing to worry about and will reside with rest and other home remedies. That said, symptoms of eye strain can be indicative of an underlying condition. Consult with your doctor if symptoms do not improve.
Eye Strain Symptoms
Some common eye strain symptoms include:
- Sore, tired eyes
- Burning and dry eyes
- Headaches or migraines
- Light sensitivity
- Tearing or watery eyes
- Blurry vision
- Sore neck
- Feeling that you can’t keep your eyes open
- Difficulty concentrating
Eye strain symptoms can vary with each person, as well as with the severity of the strain. Also, some signs can worsen as the day goes by or be intermittent and come and go throughout the day.
What Does Eye Strain Feel Like?
When experiencing eye strain, you may feel a headache, migraine, or even feel eye strain-related vertigo. Your eyes may become sore and tired, and your sight may be blurry with double vision. Your eyes may begin to water and start to burn; you might have difficulty focusing with increased sensitivity to light.
These are some of the common eye strain symptoms that most of us experience daily. It’s annoying at best, and at worst, it interferes with your workday and job performance.
Can Eye Strain Cause Floaters?
There is no proof that eye strain causes floaters. However, there has been some debate over whether or not eye strain can cause floaters. Floaters are usually the result of the gel inside the eye liquifying as we age, then crossing our line of sight, causing us to notice them.
Furthermore, floaters can also result from a dangerous retinal (back of the eye) problem. If you experience floaters, it’s best to immediately see an eye care professional to ensure your vision isn’t in danger.
What Causes Eye Strain?
Causes of eye strain include:
- Looking at digital screens for long periods
- Reading for too long
- Exposure to bright light or glare
- Exposure to dry air moving from fans, heating units, air conditioning units, and wind
- Underlying condition
- Straining to see in dim lighting
- Driving long distances without a break
Computers and Digital Devices
The most common eye strain cause is the digital device you use the most during your typical day, including laptops, desktop computers, tablets, and smartphones.
Looking at a screen for long periods causes the muscles of the eye to overwork themselves. This also includes the muscles of the face, leading to pain and discomfort.
he light coming off the digital device’s screen further irritates the eye and has a secondary effect of causing dryness, redness, and soreness, especially in a dimly lit room. Another form of light, called blue light, potentially impacts the eye’s health long term by causing retinal damage, sleep disturbances, and eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts.
How to Relieve Eye Strain
Typically, treating eye strain starts with changing your daily habits or your work/home environment. At the end of the day, you will need to see a doctor to check for underlying conditions like dry eye.
Lifestyle and Home Remedies
Follow these tips to help tackle and prevent eye strain:
- Artificial tears: Over-the-counter eye drops help to prevent dryness and lubricate the eyes. Artificial tears are available in any pharmacy or grocery store without a prescription. If you refrigerate them before putting them into your eyes, it will have a double effect of soothing and cooling your eyes as well as wetting them.
- Take breaks: One of the best eye strain remedies is just to rest your eyes. Taking regular and frequent breaks can prevent the eyes from overtasking themselves. When you’re reading, texting, or looking at a computer screen, use the 20-20-20 rule - every 20 minutes, look at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
- Adjust your lighting: Keeping the light in the room softly lit while watching television or using a computer can help relieve eye strain.
- Limit screen time: Try to reduce screen time and avoid extended viewing of digital devices.
- Improve your air quality: Try adding a humidifier to your space to help with dry air. Smoking can also cause dry eyes, so consider quitting.
- Use Eyeglasses: An excellent eye strain treatment hack is to invest in reading glasses, bifocals, or computer eyeglasses, so the eyes don’t have to work as much to focus on your reading material. Options like anti-reflective coatings, blue light filters, and tints can go a long way to protect the eyes from glare and excessive light so you can work longer and more comfortably.
Tips for Working on Digital Screens
One of the most common causes of eye strain is extended screen time on a digital device like a computer. If you spend long hours at home or in the office on a computer, consider following these tips to reduce eye strain symptoms:
- Adjust your screen settings: If needed, try enlarging on-screen text. Also, try adjusting the screen’s contrast and brightness to a level that is comfortable for you.
- Adjust your monitor: Position your monitor so that it is directly in front of you and the top of the screen is at or just below eye level.
- Adjust room lighting: Bight lights and screen glare can cause eye strain due to how difficult it is to see your screen’s content. Turning off all or some lighting will help with eye strain
- Take breaks: When you’re reading, texting, or looking at a computer screen, use the 20-20-20 rule - every 20 minutes, look at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
- Blink often: Blinking essentially refreshes your eyes by adding moisture back into them with tears. Try to blink more when working on digital devices.
When to See a Doctor
If any self-care methods do not work for you and eye strain is still present, you will want to see your doctor right away. If your symptoms do not get better, they could be stemming from an underlying condition.
All the forms of eye strain relief mentioned above can help maintain your eye health. Excessive strain and overwork, over the short term, do not damage your eyes. It puts them in a vulnerable position in the long run for eye diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration.
Since preserving eye health is paramount, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your nearest eye care professional to safeguard your eyes and make sure no problems are developing. While you’re there for an eye exam, you can ask questions and get a professional opinion on how to best relieve your eye strain based on the individualized assessment of your eyes.
Eye strain symptoms can vary with each person, as well as with the severity of the strain. Also, some signs can worsen as the day goes by, or be intermittent and come and go throughout the day