Eyestrain is a common condition that occurs when your eyes get tired from intense use, such as while driving long distances or staring at computer screens and other digital devices.
Eyestrain can be annoying. But it usually isn't serious and goes away once you rest your eyes or take other steps to reduce your eye discomfort. In some cases, signs and symptoms of eyestrain can indicate an underlying eye condition that needs treatment.
Eyestrain signs and symptoms include:
See your doctor if self-care steps don't relieve your eyestrain.
Common causes of eyestrain include:
Extended use of computers and other digital devices is one of the most common causes of eyestrain. The American Optometric Association calls this computer vision syndrome, or digital eyestrain. People who look at screens two or more hours in a row every day have the greatest risk of this condition.
Computer use strains eyes more than reading print material because people tend to:
In some cases, an underlying eye problem, such as eye muscle imbalance or uncorrected vision, can cause or worsen computer eyestrain.
Some other factors that can make the condition worse include:
Eyestrain doesn't have serious or long-term consequences, but it can be aggravating and unpleasant. It can make you tired and reduce your ability to concentrate.
Your eye doctor will ask you questions about factors that might be causing your symptoms. He or she will perform an eye exam, including testing your vision.
Generally, treatment for eyestrain consists of making changes in your daily habits or environment. Some people may need treatment for an underlying eye condition.
For some people, wearing glasses that are prescribed for specific activities, such as for computer use or for reading, helps reduce eyestrain. Your doctor may suggest that you take regular eye breaks to help your eyes focus at different distances.
Consider these tips to reduce or prevent 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.
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 eyedrops 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 eyedrops with a redness remover, as these may worsen dry eye symptoms.
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.
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. 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.
Some eyestrain symptoms may be relieved by natural products, such as bilberry extract and omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil, but further study is needed. Talk with your doctor if you're considering supplements to help relieve your signs and symptoms.
If you have eye discomfort, headache or vision changes that don't improve with self-care, make an appointment with your doctor.
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
For eyestrain, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
Your doctor may ask a number of questions, such as: