Eye Strain: Causes, Symptoms & Natural Treatments

March 10, 2017

Eye strain — also called “tired eyes” or eye fatigue — is believed to be a problem for more people today than ever before. Why is this? With more time spent staring into electronically-lit screens everyday (such as phones or computers) along with less simply resting the eyes, most of us are experiencing eye strain.

A 2016 study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science reports that “Nowadays, university students are readily exposed to accelerated environmental eye fatigue as frequent users of computer screens. Eye fatigue is a frequent complaint due to computer usage for academic or recreational purposes, and for social networking.”

Researchers found that eye strain was ultimately influenced by factors including “artificial or insufficient lighting, prolonged watching of visual displays, poor diet, eye muscle inefficiency due to prolonged hours of office work and academic studies, psychosocial and emotional tension, and aging.”

What are some of the ways you can find relief from symptoms like dryness, irritation, redness and decreased visual acuity? These include taking breaks from screen time and practicing eye exercises. It’s also important to take care of your eyes as you age by managing stress and eating a nutrient-dense diet.

What is Eye Strain?

Eye strain affects the muscles and nerves of the eyes. It is also called asthenopia.  With eye strain, the tiny muscles and nerves of the eyes become overworked, stressed and fatigued. Unlike many other eye disorders, eye strain can develop in people with no medical or genetic history of eye problems. It can also occur at a young age. For most people, symptoms include  headaches, trouble focusing, pain in and around the eyes, and even irritability.

Didn’t know your eyes could actually become “tired”? Focusing light in order to make out images, read text and follow moving objects in your visual field takes a great deal of work. All day long a wide variety of visual information is perceived through the eyes. Our eyes are sensitive to things like too much light exposure, lack of sleep, nutrient deficiencies, muscular tension and environmental pollutants.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Eye Strain

The following symptoms may be a sign you’ve developed eye strain:

Burning sensations in the eyes.

Feeling heaviness in the forehead and surrounding the eye sockets.

Developing headaches behind the eyes, in between the eyes (on the center of the forehead) or on the sides of the eyes. Ocular Migraines tend to cause less severe pain than aura migraines. But they do cause temporary visual disturbances that can affect one or both eyes. (4) Risk factors for ocular migraines are similar are to those for eye strain.

Redness in the eyes and signs of irritation or inflammation, such as eye dryness or glassiness.

Pain around the eyes that tends to get worse as the day goes on, but usually disappears with rest.

Decreased symptoms on days when you’re not spending lots of time reading, on the computer or doing work involving focusing.

Difficulty concentrating due to tension, or experiencing brain fog.

In severe cases, poor visual acuity, blurred vision or double vision can occur.

Eye Strain Causes and Risk Factors

Intense eye use, including lots of focusing or exposure to bright lights causes eye fatigue (or strain, heaviness or tiredness). Some behaviors and situations that put a good deal of strain on the eyes include: reading (especially small text when in dim light, or making out small text that’s far away), writing, driving, texting on your phone, typing on a computer, watching television, playing video games, or directly looking into the sun.

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