What is an eyestrain?
Eyestrain is a term used to describe sore or tired eyes. Eyestrain is a common problem among people who do a lot of reading or computer work.
How does it occur?
Your eyestrain could be caused by one or more of the following:
- You have a vision problem (for example, you are farsighted or your eyes do not line up properly making it hard for your eyes to work together).
- You do one task for a long time without a break (such as reading, computer work, or even a long drive). The muscles that move and focus your eyes get tired of staying in one place.
- Your workstation is not set up correctly. Poor lighting or glare off a computer screen or window is often a problem.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of eyestrain may include:
- sore eyes
- tired eyes
- blurred vision
- headache near your eyes or at the back of your neck
- squinting your eyes.
You may have just one or any combination of these symptoms.
How is it diagnosed?
You will have an eye exam. Your eye doctor will ask about your symptoms. Your doctor will ask how long your eyes have been hurting, what you are doing when your eyes hurt, and how often it happens. Your doctor will then carefully test your distance and close-up vision. Tests of your eyes' ability to focus and work together will also be done. Your doctor will check the health of your eyes to make sure that the symptoms are not caused by a more serious medical condition.
How is it treated?
If your eyestrain is caused by a vision problem, your doctor will probably give you a new prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses.
- If you are over 40, you are probably developing presbyopia, the natural loss of ability to focus on close objects. When this happens, your doctor will prescribe either reading glasses or a type of bifocal lens.
- If your eyes do not work together very well, glasses can help here, too. You will need glasses that can help direct your eyes where they should be looking. Some eye doctors may also prescribe eye exercises called vision therapy.
If doing one task for a long time is causing your eyestrain, you should take short breaks to let your eyes rest. At least every 20 minutes look at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
If your eyestrain is caused by your computer workstation, you will want to make some adjustments.
- First, put your monitor 22 to 28 inches from your eyes. Then, make sure the top of the screen is no higher than eye-level.
- If you need to look back and forth between your paper and your computer screen, use a paper holder that holds your paper next to the computer screen (at the same height and distance as your computer monitor).
- Try to keep the room lighting at about the same brightness as the computer screen. Avoid having a bright window in front of you or behind you. This really helps cut glare and reflections.
How can I take care of myself?
The best way to take care of yourself is to have your eyes examined every year. Many people think it is normal for their eyes to hurt after a long day, but it is not. If you have symptoms of eyestrain, see your eye doctor. Don't wait until your yearly eye exam.