Eye strain is a very common condition resulting from prolonged or intense use of the eyes for certain activities such as looking at screens, driving, reading, etc. The medical term for this condition is known as asthenopia. The rate of occurrence of this condition has increased over the past decade due to excessive use of mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and other screens. Eye strain is not a serious condition, and it can be managed by modifying some occupational and lifestyle factors.
The most common cause of eye strain these days is the increased usage of digital devices. Focusing on screens for a prolonged duration tenses the inner muscles of your eyes. This can cause fatigue and dryness of the eyes. Studies have also noticed that people tend to blink less while looking at digital screens. This also contributes to the dryness of the eyes and increases muscle strain. Intense glare, poor contrast, or smaller font size can also lead to increased eye strain.
Reading, writing, or driving for long hours can also cause eye strain. These activities require intense use of vision and focus. A preexisting vision issue such as dry eyes refractive error can exacerbate this condition. Working in dim light can also cause excessive strain on your eyes. On the contrary, exposure to intense light or glare for a long time can also cause eye strain. This condition is also linked with your overall functioning as well. If you are already feeling tired or stressed but still have to work, read or drive, the chance of getting eye strain is higher.
One of the biggest risk factors for eye strain is the excessive use of digital devices. If your work requires you to look at a screen for a long duration of time, you have an increased risk of getting eye strain. The presence of pre-existing vision problems can make it more difficult for you to keep your eyes open and focused for long hours. Whether it is an occupational requirement or not, eye strain is still possible if you do not give your eyes time to relax in between.
It has been estimated that around 87% of adults in the United States of America spend more than two hours each day on one or more digital devices. Apart from adults, about 76% of children and teenagers spend two or more hours looking at digital screens. This has increased the incidence of eye strain among the general population.
Symptoms of eye strain can vary in severity depending on certain factors. The common presenting symptoms include:
· Tired, burning, or itchy eyes
· Watery or dry eyes
· Blurred vision or double vision
· Soreness around eyes
· Increased sensitivity to bright light
· Difficulty focusing or concentrating.
Apart from eyes, other symptoms can also be present, including headache, neck strain, pain in the shoulders or back, generalized tiredness, etc. These symptoms may be higher in intensity due to incorrect posture or working in the same posture for long hours.
Eye strain is not usually a serious medical condition. If your problem is severe, consult a doctor to examine your symptoms in detail. If necessary, your doctor may perform vision tests and other optical tests to look for a serious cause. In the majority of the cases, no laboratory or imaging tests are required for diagnosis.
Eye strain can occur in a regular routine and goes away when the eyes are rested. If you have persistent severe eye strain, your doctor will need to test for certain other conditions that cause similar symptoms. Some of these conditions include cluster headache, xerophthalmia, glaucoma, conjunctivitis, keratitis, uveitis, etc.
There are no specific medications or invasive treatment options required to treat eye strain. The occurrence of eye strain can be reduced by modifying some lifestyle factors. If you have to look at a screen for work or other purposes for more than an hour, the first thing to do is to adjust the brightness of your screen. Too high or too low brightness may lead to eye strain. Next is to adjust the contrast and font size to your comfort level.
Apart from changing these settings, it is important to take a break every once or twice an hour to relax your eyes. You can do this by staring at a far-off object for 15 to 20 seconds. If you have glasses or contact lenses for a vision problem, you need to be more careful of the distance from your screen. You can also look for modified glasses or contact lenses specially designed for screen work.
Consistent dry eyes can increase the risk of eye strain. You can buy eye drops like artificial tears to reduce the dryness of your eyes. If you tend to blink less while working, set a reminder to blink more often while focusing on a screen. This relaxes your eyes muscles and prevents your eyes from drying out. You can also apply a warm, wet cloth over tired eyes to improve circulation. Modify the lighting and air conditions of your working space to reduce the risk of eye strain.
Medications are not necessary to treat eye strain. Analgesics like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc., can be taken if you develop headache, neck, back, or shoulder pain along with eye strain.
Eye strain can be easily treated and prevented by making some lifestyle modifications. Certain complications may occur in very rare cases, such as cataracts, retinal issues, degeneration of eye muscles, etc.
Limiting your screen time and improving your habits regarding the proper usage of digital devices can prevent eye strain. If you have to keep your eyes open and focused for long hours, remember to take a few seconds break every hour to relax your eyes. Maintain a proper diet and sleep schedule to avoid generalized tiredness and maintain efficiency.
Our clinical experts continually monitor the health and medical content posted on CURA4U, and we update our blogs and articles when new information becomes available. Last reviewed by Dr.Saad Zia on May 01, 2023.