Are your eyes feeling strained, weak, and generally tired?
Maybe they start feeling this way after periods of concentration, such as reading, studying or using a computer. Sometimes the feeling can spread around or behind your eyes and even turn into a headache…. is this normal?
What is Eye Strain and its Causes?
Unfortunately, these symptoms are all too common and they are increasing along with our use of digital devices. Think about it; how much time are you actually spending in front of a screen every day? Think about the number of hours… now add a few more hours to that and you are probably closer to the real amount. Eye strain is also known as asthenopia. You can think of this eye condition as a muscle fatigue, due to excessive reading or excessive staring at computers, smart phones or digital tablets.
Eye strain can also be caused by an uncorrected spectacle prescription, in particular astigmatism or longsightedness (also known as hypermetropia).
The bigger question is, what is eye strain really costing you? Computer, tablet and smartphone use can make our lives a lot easier – but not if it is potentially damaging our vision over the long run. Ignoring your eye strain usually makes it worse, and makes it more costly, difficult, and time-consuming to fix.
Eye strain is merely a warning sign of a bigger issue – there are usually underlying problems causing the problem and some of these can cause long term damage to your vision.
Eye Strain Symptoms
The symptoms of eye strain can vary from mild to severe, and usually become worse after a long period of close reading, studying or general computer use. The unique combination of symptoms for each individual can often help point to the underlying cause of the problem.
Computer Eye Strain
Computer eye strain – also known as digital eye strain, or part of a larger problem called computer vision syndrome – is when symptoms of eye strain and dry eyes are directly linked to the use of digital screens. Focusing up close for long periods of time without looking into the distance definitely takes its toll on the eyes, making them dry, short sighted, and potentially damaged permanently from the increased blue light levels.
People are increasingly becoming aware of the potentially harmful effects of blue light. Blue light is emitted from many sources, including digital screens (such as your phone, tablet, computer, laptop and TV) and fluorescent and energy efficient lights. Another source of blue light is the sun – human circadian rhythms have evolved to use this light source to regulate sleep/wake patterns and to feel more alert during the day.
Unfortunately, this also means that the increased use of digital devices in the home and office at night time leads to a disruption of the natural sleep cycle, causing increased fatigue.
Increased exposure to blue light not only causes feelings of dry and tired eyes, but it can also damage the precious sight-giving cells at the back of the eye, leading to permanent vision loss.
Computer Vision Syndrome
This is a larger problem than just eye strain. It also involves dry eye syndrome, lower back problems, neck issues and a general feeling of fatigue. The human body is meant to move and the eyes are meant to do most of their focusing in the distance, which is a distance of greater than 3 metres.
We now find that most people spend more time in doors and exercise far less than they used to. Is it no wonder that computer vision syndrome is now so common?
Eye Strain Treatment
The good news is that many causes of eye strain are actually quite easy to fix, allowing you to get back to your day to day life with comfortable eyes and clear vision. Relieving the eye strain starts with a comprehensive eye examination to diagnose the underlying causes. Only then can a treatment plan be tailored to fix the problem. Eye exercises, blink rehabilitation, prescription glasses or tinted lenses are just some of the treatments for this debilitating condition.
Principle optometrist of The Eye Practice, Jim Kokkinakis, talks about computer vision syndrome and dry eyes in the following podcast:
Eye Strain Glasses
Sometimes a simple pair of glasses is enough to reduce or even eliminate eye strain. Often, the eye muscles are so tired from the eye strain that vision can fluctuate and change over short periods of time. This is why a correct prescription is so important. Sometimes specialised ‘anti-fatigue’ lenses are recommended, which provide a more customised solution that is tailored to the work or study environment. Correcting muscle balance and providing a blue light filter can also significantly reduce eye strain.
Irlen Syndrome – Coloured lenses
In some cases, a more specialised pair of glasses with coloured lenses is needed to relieve or eliminate eye strain. This condition is called Irlen Syndrome or Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome and is a problem in the brain, not the eyes. Tinted lenses, overlays and screen-films are used to reduce or eliminate the symptoms, which include sensitivity to glare, and reading difficulties.
Experts in Eye Strain Management
If you’re suffering from eye strain, you’ve come to the right place. The Eye Practice is dedicated to the treatment of all forms of this debilitating condition. Dr Jim Kokkinakis has over 30 years of experience and tailors the treatment to the individual. We treat people, not diseases.