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What is Eye Strain?
Eye strain is the discomfort experienced when you focus for prolonged periods that causes your eyes and the eye muscles to tire and become over-used. Your eyes are designed to shift focus between near and distant objects. However, most of our work and recreational tasks have been executed at close proximity.
Visual tasks such as reading, spending hours at the computer or watching television require you to focus and concentrate – and without you realizing it, you are actually placing strain on your eye muscles. The eye muscles tighten and cause your eyes to become dry, irritated and uncomfortable.
Diagnosing Eye Strain
If your eyes are strained or you are sensitive to light, you should visit an optician for an eye examination. Having your vision tested will also rule out any eye disorders and verify whether you need prescription spectacles or contact lenses.
Signs and Symptoms of Eye Strain
- Headaches or Migraines
- Vertigo and Dizziness
- Pain in the Eye
- Red, Watery Eyes
- Blurred or Double Vision
- Dry eyes that feel scratchy
- Burning sensation when you close your eyes
- Neck aches
- Back aches
- Aching heaviness of the eyelids or forehead, especially around the eyebrows
- Muscle spasm in the muscles surrounding the eyes
- Twitch in the eyelid
Eye strain symptoms will not be present when you wake up in the morning nor be accompanied by ultra-sensitivity to light. Eye strain symptoms also tend to worsen when visual tasks like reading are performed. Eye strain caused by computers has become exceedingly common and today eye strain affects mostly computer users.
More than 50% of computer users complain of eye strain symptoms. They stare at a screen for hours a day, usually in one position. People who read a lot, watch television for long periods, spend time outdoors in the glaring sun or drive long distances are also at risk of developing eye strain symptoms .
What Causes Eye Strain?
There are several factors that contribute to the causes of eyestrain. Focusing the eyes on a fixed object for prolonged periods causes the eyes to strain with close viewing being worse than distant viewing. Working in poor lighting also causes the eyes to become more strained.
The direct glare of bright ceiling lights or a sunny window shining into your eyes makes it difficult to see. Eye strain caused by computers is common. Reflected glares of computer screens may also bring about eye strain because the contrast between the image you are viewing and its background are reduced by the reflected light.
This glare makes it harder for your brain to interpret the image which causes you to strain your eyes and your facial and eyes muscles tighten. Too much contrast (the difference in brightness between what is being viewed and its immediate environment) can also lead to eye strain caused by computers.
The most common causes of eye strain are:
- Glare from Bright Lights
Conditions Related to Eye Strain
There are a number of visual defects that can cause eyestrain and the associated headaches.
One of these is hyperopia, where the light is focused behind the retina and consequently the image is blurred close up. Hyperopia is corrected by spectacles or contact lenses. The opposite of this is Myopia whereby distant objects are blurred.
Astigmatism is another type of visual defect and can accompany either myopia or hyperopia.
Astigmatism occurs when the cornea is not a perfect spherical shape so images will be blurred in some areas and clear in others. Astigmatism may cause a blurring of objects at all distances and even a tendency for the person to squint in order to improve vision. Astigmatism is also correctable with spectacles and contact lenses.
Presbyopia is another eye condition that frequently occurs with the ageing process.
Help for Eye Strain
Treat strained eyes by moisturizing them with a variety of over-the-counter eye-drops or artificial tears. Hypoallergenic preparations can also soothe overworked eyes (especially seeing as many eye medications contain harsh ingredients which can have adverse side effects).
Simple Solutions to Relieve Eye Strain
- Close your eyes for a few minutes to ease the strain, this is a commonly overlooked home remedy for eye strain.
- Practice eye exercises such as blinking or rolling your eyes - blinking moistens the eyes and relieves tight eye muscles
- Take regular breaks to relax eye muscle - occasionally look away from the monitor and focus on a distant object for a few seconds to give your eyes a rest.
- Turn up the contrast on your computer screen to minimize eye strain
- Another home remedy for eye strain is to position your computer screen out of the direct glare of the sunlight and use a glare filter on the screen
- Computer monitors and television screens should be positioned at eye level so that you can look down towards it
- When reading, hold your book at least 30 to 40 cm away from your eyes
- Wear sunglasses when driving or outdoors because the ultraviolet rays of the sun can cause you to squint
- Wear a sunhat or baseball cap when outside in the sun to reduce glaring and squinting
- While watching television, the lighting of the room should be about 50% dimmer than the screen
- Avoid watching television at an angle or in darkness