If your eyes often feel heavy and you’re finding it tricky to focus, you likely have an eye strain.
Also known as asthenopia, it’s a fairly common issue in the modern, digital age when most people tend to spend a large proportion of their days staring at a phone, computer, or tablet.
While eye strains can be easy to treat simply by resting your eyes or taking drops, it’s worth knowing how to avoid them altogether, too.
That’s because long-term eye strains could lead to more severe vision problems.
Wondering what an eye strain feels like and what exactly causes it? Read on…
5 signs that your eyes are strained
Here are 5 signs you can look out for:1
- They feel dry and irritated
- They’re particularly sensitive to light
- You have blurred or double vision
- You have a headache
- You experience shoulder or neck pain
What are the most common causes of eye strains?
Eye strain causes are relatively straightforward and more often than not come down to your use of electronic devices.
As people of all ages typically look at a screen every day, eye strains are something that can affect both kids and adults.
In general, the most common causes of eye strains include:2
- Staring at a screen without blinking.
- Focusing on one task for too long, whether that’s reading, writing, or driving.
- Poor lighting, especially if you’re trying to focus on something like a book.
- Being tired or stressed.
In rarer cases, eye strains can be a symptom of a condition called astigmatism.
Astigmatism is when the front of your eyeballs are flatter than they should be, meaning light can focus on more than one place.
Common symptoms include blurred vision and eye strains, and it’s typically corrected with glasses or contact lenses.3
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How to prevent eye strains
There are some straightforward steps you can take to help eliminate the likelihood of eye strains. These include:4
Limiting your use of screens
This is especially important before you go to bed, as the blue light emitted by most phone and tablet screens can not only cause your eyes to strain but can also overstimulate your brain.
Using eye drops
Dry eyes are a common symptom of eye strain and are generally caused by staring or focusing at one thing – such as a screen – for too long without blinking.
If you have dry eyes, you may want to invest in some eye drops, which will instantly hydrate your eyes and soothe any irritation.
Having regular breaks
No matter the task you’re working on, it’s a good idea to have a short break every twenty minutes or so to give your eyes a rest.
Improving your lighting
Making sure you have adequate lighting if you’re focusing on something for more than five minutes may help prevent eye strains.
If you’re using a light-emitting device such as a phone or computer, make sure it’s positioned out in front of you and just below eye level.
Opening a window
To avoid getting even drier eyes, make sure you keep your home or office well ventilated.
Homes which have poor air circulation are typically dustier, plus things like heating systems are known for drying out hair, eyes, and skin.
Try to open your windows regularly or invest in a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
Those prone to persistent eye strain, as well as working out how to prevent it, may want to consider a more long-term remedy such as glasses or contact lenses.
Taking a vitamin
There are specific essential vitamins which our bodies need to maintain the health and hydration of our eyes.
If you think you might be deficient in some nutrients, it can be worth taking a vision supporting supplements such as cod liver oil.
For advice on remedies, take a look at our guide to relieving eye strains.
Straining your eyes could also be a sign of a more severe issue such as vision loss or macular degeneration, so it’s worth seeing your GP or booking regular eye tests if you persistently have problems.
Last updated: 9 September 2021