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As you sit at your desk and work on your computer, you notice that your eyes sting, feel tired, or ache. You may have noticed these sensations for a few days, and they don’t seem to improve over time. You’d like to reduce the pain you feel, but you aren’t sure what has caused your discomfort.

More than likely, you’ve strained your eyes. Though eyestrain is fairly common among most adults (and even though it doesn’t damage the eye), it is still a nuisance to deal with. Below, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about eyestrain so you don’t have to suffer from this ailment longer than necessary. Read on to learn what causes the condition, what its symptoms are, and how to treat and prevent it.

What Is Eyestrain?

Essentially, eyestrain is a term that describes most discomfort, pain, and fatigue you feel in your eyes after you’ve used them for an extended period of time. You can strain your eyes doing a number of different tasks and activities for a long time, such as:

  • Driving (especially in the dark)
  • Writing
  • Reading

You can also strain your eyes if you expose yourself to bright lights, such as those emitted from smartphones, computer and tablet screens, and television screens. The longer you stare at a screen or the longer you go without moving your eyes around, the higher your risk is for developing eyestrain.

Additionally, if you work on a computer or other electronic device, you are more likely to strain your eyes. According to some studies, people who use digital devices regularly blink about half as often in a minute as individuals who don’t use electronics for their jobs. As a result, people who work on a computer are more at risk for developing eyestrain.

In fact, between 50 and 90 percent of people who work with electronics will develop eyestrain at some point in their career.

When you do any of the activities mentioned above, you try to focus on the task as much as possible. That added focus, coupled with minimal blinking, causes you to clench the muscles in your eyelids, temples, face, and jaw so you can use those muscles more. This unconscious clenching of your eye muscles causes you to develop eyestrain.

What Are the Symptoms of Eyestrain?

Most often, you’ll notice a slight discomfort in your eyes if you suffer from eyestrain. However, you should also look out for the following symptoms of this condition:

  • Watery or dry eyes
  • Double vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Pain in your back, neck, and shoulders
  • Headaches
  • Tired eyes
  • Burning or stinging sensations
  • Itchy eyes

If you also have a hard time keeping your eyes open, you may suffer from eyestrain. As you work each day, try to notice if you show any of the symptoms listed above. Once you start to show symptoms of eyestrain, you’ll want to make adjustments to treat the condition as soon as possible.

How Do You Treat This Condition?

Because eyestrain is a temporary condition that doesn’t cause eye damage, an optometrist can’t provide medical treatment to help you recover. However, you should schedule an appointment with your eye doctor to get a comprehensive eye exam—especially if you haven’t had an eye exam in the last year and you frequently work on a computer.

In this exam, tell your optometrist about any symptoms you have, as well as how often you use computers, tablets, or other electronic devices. Your eye doctor may then recommend what changes you can make (such as moving further away from your computer) to reduce your pain and discomfort.

Additionally, your eye doctor may recommend that you adjust all forms of lighting you expose yourself to, reduce the amount of glare on your screens, and upgrade your monitors and screens.

Are There Any Ways to Prevent Eyestrain?

Even if you don’t suffer from eyestrain, you can still prevent yourself from developing the condition. Try the following preventative techniques to keep your eyes healthy and comfortable:

  • Blink more often.
  • Take breaks and look away from your computer screen as often as possible.
  • Exercise your eye muscles.
  • Adjust your environment so you don’t have to clench your eyes to focus.
  • Reposition your screens so they are at the right height and distance away from you.
  • Make sure your eyeglasses or contact lens prescription is updated.
  • Don’t read text that is too small.
  • Use eye drops to keep your dry eyes moist.

Think you suffer from eyestrain? Visit your eye doctor as soon as possible. A certified optometrist can examine your eyes and determine if you have strained your eyes. He or she may also recommend different treatment options and preventative measures than those mentioned above.

To avoid developing eyestrain, use the preventative tips found in the list above as well. For more information about eye health or how an eye doctor can help you maintain good eyesight, read through the rest of our blog.