What Causes Eye Strain?

Eye strain, also known as asthenopia, occurs when the eye muscles become fatigued from prolonged use or overexertion. This condition can result from various factors and activities. Some common causes of eye strain include:

  • Extended screen time: Prolonged use of digital devices such as computers, smartphones, and tablets can lead to digital eye strain, also known as computer vision syndrome. Staring at screens for hours on end can cause eye discomfort, blurred vision, and eye fatigue.
  • Poor lighting: Inadequate or improper lighting conditions can strain the eyes. Too much or too little light can make it challenging to focus on tasks, increasing the risk of eye strain.
  • Reading and close work: Reading small print, performing detailed tasks, or working in a position that requires close focus for extended periods can strain the eye muscles.
  • Uncorrected refractive errors: If you have uncorrected vision problems, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism, your eyes must work harder to focus properly. This extra effort can lead to eye strain.
  • Incorrect prescription or outdated glasses: Wearing glasses with an incorrect prescription or outdated prescription can result in eye strain. It’s essential to have regular eye exams to ensure your glasses or contact lens prescription is up to date.
  • Dry eyes: Insufficient tear production or poor tear quality can lead to dry eyes, causing discomfort and eye strain. Dry eyes are common among individuals who spend a lot of time in dry or air-conditioned environments.
  • Blinking less frequently: When focusing intently on screens or close-up tasks, people tend to blink less frequently. Reduced blinking can lead to dry eyes and eye discomfort.
  • Environmental factors: Environmental conditions, such as air pollution, dust, allergens, and smoke, can irritate the eyes and lead to eye strain.
  • Improper screen setup: The positioning of your computer monitor, screen brightness, and font size can affect how you use your eyes. Incorrect screen settings can contribute to eye strain.
  • Excessive glare: Glare from screens, windows, or artificial lighting can strain the eyes, as the eyes must work harder to see through the glare.
  • Poor ergonomics: An uncomfortable or non-ergonomic work setup can contribute to eye strain. This includes the height and angle of the computer monitor and the seating position.

To reduce and prevent eye strain, consider the following measures:

  • Take regular breaks from screen and close-up work (the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds).
  • Ensure proper lighting and minimize glare.
  • Use artificial tears or lubricating eye drops for dry eyes.
  • Maintain proper screen distance and angle.
  • Keep your eyeglass prescription up to date.
  • Maintain good overall eye health through a balanced diet, staying hydrated, and getting regular eye exams.

If eye strain persists or is severe, consult with an eye care professional for a comprehensive eye examination to rule out any underlying issues and receive personalized recommendations for relief.