If you’re going through a busy patch in your life, you may be feeling the effects of stress. Maybe you’re grouchy, tired, and on edge, or maybe you constantly crave comforting foods, no matter how unhealthy they are.
However, did you know that stress can also affect your eyes? During this difficult time when your life feels much too busy or difficult, your eyes can pay a price like the rest of your body does. Learn what eye symptoms can result from too much stress and what to do about them.
What Are Common Stress-Related Eye Problems?
Most stress-caused eye issues are temporary—if you have a consistent issue with your eyes, no matter what’s going on in your life, the problem is likely with your eyes instead of your stress level. Make sure to see an eye doctor if you have persistent eye trouble.
But when you have a massive deadline or your children all get sick at the same time, you may notice these problems:
- Tunnel vision. You may lose some of your peripheral vision and feel like you can only see straight in front of you.
- Sensitivity to light. You may feel like bright light hurts your eyes or makes it difficult for you to see.
- Eye twitching. Maybe one, or both, of your eyes will randomly spasm.
- Very dry or very wet eyes. While these are opposite symptoms, either one can be caused by stress. It all depends on how your body responds to a difficult situation.
- Blurry vision. When caused by stress, blurry vision will probably be mild instead of severe.
- Eye strain. Eye strain may be caused by something simple, like staring at your computer screen too long at work. However, it can also be caused by stress.
- Eye floaters. Eye floaters are tiny spots that swim across your vision.
These symptoms are usually not terrible—you can live with them without seeing an eye doctor. The problems are more annoying than debilitating. However, if they last a long time or are very uncomfortable, you should still see a professional just in case.
What Causes Stress-Related Eye Problems?
When you get anxious, frightened, or stressed, your body’s instinct is to go into what scientists call “fight or flight” mode. Your body will start producing hormones like adrenaline, which speed up your heart rate, and your brain will direct more blood to essential functions like your internal organs and less blood to your extremities.
The reason your body takes these actions is to protect you. Your brain detects a threat when you worry about something, so its response is to gear up for either fighting the threat or running away from it. While this is a great response to physical danger, like an intruder in the home or a dangerous animal, it isn’t helpful for most problems that cause stress, like an argument with your spouse or a big project at work.
Though your brain’s response to stress isn’t helpful for non-physical problems, it still happens. When you’re in fight or flight mode, your eyes can suffer because your brain will cause your pupils to dilate. The idea behind this response is to get more light into your eyes so you can see any potential threats more clearly.
However, when you’re stressed out for a long time, the constant dilation makes you sensitive to light and can cause serious strain on your eyes. Additionally, when you’re very tense, as many stressed-out people are, the muscles in and around your eyes can tighten, causing twitching and soreness.
What Can You Do?
If you think that your eye problems are stress-related, you can start by trying to relax. Think about your symptoms as warning signs—your body is obviously trying to respond to a threat, and it’s hurting you. The best thing to do is to try to calm down your brain’s response to danger.
You probably know what de-stresses you better than anybody. However, if you need some ideas, try:
- Taking a long, warm bath and focusing on how it feels
- Taking slow, deep breaths, sending the air into your belly instead of your chest
- Writing in a journal
As always, you’ll feel better if you make sure to get enough sleep and eat well. Even though you’re busy, taking at least a few minutes to consciously relax will help your body calm down.
If you feel stressed or worried most of the time, you may need to make bigger changes. You may be trying to do too much in too little time and need to cut back. Alternatively, you may have an anxiety disorder, which is highly treatable. If you constantly feel like you’re on edge, it might be time to speak with a doctor or counselor to make sure that you’re emotionally and physically healthy.
Once you’ve found a way to deal with your stress, your eyes should go back to normal. Stress-related eye issues should be temporary and easy to fix. However, if you continue to have problems, make sure to visit your eye doctor. The optometrists here at All About Eyes are ready to assist you so that your eyes are as comfortable as possible.