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Eye Strain: Symptoms, Causes, Relief, Treatment and Prevention

May 6, 2020

Struggling with your vision and not sure what’s causing it? Let’s explore eye strain, why it happens and what you can expect from this common ailment.

What Is Eye Strain?

The answer to the question “what is eye strain?” is not as clear cut as you may think. Eye strain is a term that covers several symptoms, but which all involve the straining of the eye and a negative impact on a person’s vision. It includes eye fatigue and digital eye strain and often makes it difficult for a person to read books, drive long-distance, or perform other visual tasks.

Everyone experiences eye strain differently, and the problem can be triggered by several daily activities. To understand the condition and to know whether it’s affecting you, it’s important to know the symptoms. So, let’s take a look at some of the signs of eye strain.

Eye Strain Symptoms

Eye strain can affect everybody differently, but it always includes one or more of the following symptoms.

  • Nausea
  • Neck, back, or shoulder pain
  • Painful or irritated eyes
  • Dry eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Difficulty focusing on tasks
  • Difficulty reading

If you’re suffering from eye strain in one eye or both, you will experience one or more of these symptoms for prolonged periods. These eye strain symptoms may also appear only when you perform specific visual tasks, which is another sign your problem is, in fact, eye strain.

However, the American Optometric Association showed that the most common symptom you should expect from eye strain is dry eye, headaches, and blurred vision.

Precisely because these symptoms are caused by eye strain, you should expect to also experience eye strain nausea as well. The only way to stop these symptoms in their tracks is to stop performing the visual tasks that cause them, take precautions for the future, or see a specialist eye doctor to help you avoid eye fatigue in the future.

Eye Strain Causes

There are multiple eye strain causes to take a look at, but it’s important to note that the most common reason why Americans suffer eye fatigue today is the use of smartphones and computers.

A 2015 study found that 58% of American adults have experienced eye strain and vision problems as a result of using computers for more than seven hours a day at home or at work.

However, there’s more to it. Eye strain can be caused by any of the following things:

  • Exposure to dry air indoors, caused by HVAC units
  • General fatigue and stress that makes you unable to focus
  • Underlying eye problems, including uncorrected refractive errors
  • Long exposure to digital screens
  • Reading for long periods
  • Long-distance driving

When it comes to computers, bad posture while sitting at your desk or glare on your screen can also make the symptoms worse.

Eye Strain Relief

Before you reach the treatment stage, eye strain relief methods can be used to reduce strain and make you more comfortable.

You can relieve eye strain with these three simple methods.

  • Rest your eyes
  • Improve your air quality
  • Wear the right eyeglasses prescription

Resting your eyes is essential. Take regular breaks and get a good night’s sleep and make sure your eyes are prepared to function for a long day of work.

When it comes to air quality, you should do all you can to avoid dry air. If possible, avoid using an air conditioner and open the window instead. Use a humidifier if the air is particularly dry, and move away from irritants like smoke.

Finally, remember to get your eyes checked frequently and ensure you’re wearing the right prescription. If you don’t wear glasses, now’s the time to find out if you need them!

Eye Strain Treatment

Eye strain is best combated through preventative measures, but there are treatments available for people who take these measures and use eye strain remedies but still suffer.

Your eye strain treatment process starts with speaking to an eye doctor to test your vision and perform a full eye exam.

From here, you may be diagnosed with an underlying eye problem, instructed to use over the counter artificial tears or prescribed medicated eye drops to help relieve your symptoms. But first, we always recommend you reduce eye strain by changing your environment.

Another helpful remedy to try at home is artificial tears. There are many varieties of artificial tears available over the counter that are cost effective and easy to use. While it may not alleviate your discomfort completely, these lubricating eye drops are certainly worth trying as part of self-care.

Eye Strain Prevention

Want to know how to prevent eye strain? It starts with identifying the cause and taking measures to prevent it from happening again.

If your eye strain is caused by extended use of computers, you should always remember to take regular breaks, blink regularly to cleanse and refresh the eyes, and use matte anti-glare screens when possible. By ensuring your screen has as little glare as possible, it gives the effect of looking at paper rather than a digital screen.

Minimize your use of fluorescent lighting, if possible. Unnatural light like this makes it hard to focus on screens. Remember to reduce the light around you, opting for dim lamps rather than bright overhead lights when you’re using computer screens for extended periods.

Eye strain prevention is always better than relief and treatment, so be sure to rest your eyes and change the way you perform visual tasks in the future to keep your eyes healthy.

See an Eye Specialist in Chicago Today!

Eye strain is often caused by environmental factors, but it can also be a result of an underlying condition.

For clarity and relief from painful eye strain symptoms, don’t hesitate to call the Kraff Eye Institute today. Our world-class doctors and eyecare specialists provide full exams, accurate diagnoses and treatments that restore your eye health.

Call today at (312) 444-1111 or schedule your appointment online.


What is eye strain a symptom of?

Eye strain may be a symptom of an underlying eye condition but is typically caused by long exposure to digital screens or long-distance driving.

Can you get migraines from eye strain?

Yes, headaches and migraines are common symptoms of eye strain.

What does an eye strain headache feel like?

Eye strain headaches manifest themselves as thumping, dull pains towards the front of the head, but they can vary greatly from person to person.

Do glasses help with eye strain?

Glasses often solve eye strain for people who did not realize they needed a prescription.

Is eye strain dangerous?

While eye strain doesn’t necessarily cause long-term damage, symptoms can get gradually worse if not treated.

Will eye strain go away?

Yes, but will likely return when re-exposed to the environmental triggers that caused the pain in the first place.

Dr. Colman R. Kraff

Committed to advancing new technologies in the field of ophthalmology, Dr. Colman Kraff helped to pioneer laser vision correction. In February of 1991, as part of a five-site, U.S., FDA clinical trial team, Dr. Kraff successfully performed the first excimer laser procedures in the Chicagoland area using the VISX Excimer Laser.

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