Eye Strain (or Asthenopia) affects at least 70% of the population. A recent study completed by Bausch & Lomb in December 2009 revealed through a random survey done in the USA , Europe and Asia that Eye Strain (or Asthenopia) was experienced by most people.
Approximately 20% of the people that reported eye strain described it in the severe category.
With such a significant incidence of Eye Strain, what can be done to treat it or suppress it?
There are a few options but before considering treatments it is important to workout what is the possible cause of the perceived Eye Strain. Sometimes there are a combination of factors that contribute and multiple treatments are required.
Classifying different types of Eye Strain in laypersons language can be challenging, but let us give it a try:
- Uncorrected Refractive error is very common – this includes Hyperopia, Myopia, or Astigmatism. Refractive error means that the eye in it’s relaxed state is not focusing properly. More detail can be found about these conditions by clicking on the highlighted words above.
- Eye Muscle Imbalance – this condition is medically called Strabismus. It is quite a complex area
but a simple explanation can be found by clicking on the highlighted word above.
- Overuse syndrome – like any muscle of the body, overusing the eye muscles can cause Eye Strain, which possibly will occur without any sign of focusing problems like refractive error or muscle imbalances like Strabismus. Just like repetitive strain injuries (RSI) can occur, so can Eye Strain just from reading documents, looking at computer screens, smart phones or playing computer games.
Before any complicated treatment is begun for Eye Strain, every patient needs a thorough comprehensive eye exam that measures for refractive error, eye muscle imbalances and very importantly looks for any underlying eye disease.
If no eye disease is present then correcting one problem at a time is the best approach. Refractive error is quite common and very simple to fix by either glasses or contact lenses. Assuming there is a clinical relevant refractive error, it is wise to dispense the glasses or contact lenses and allow the patient to re-challenge their eyes and vision in the same environment that they experienced the original eye strain symptoms.
By prescribing glasses or contact lenses we need to be clear about two common myths:
- By not wearing glasses or contact lenses when there is clinically significant refractive error only means that eye strain symptoms will persist. It does not mean that your eyes will strengthen because you do not use the glasses or contact lenses. Nor does it mean that your eyes will weaken because you are using them.
- Some people that are prescribed glasses think that by straining their eyes that somehow this will make them worse – this also is not true. It just means that the eye strain will be relieved and they will feel better and be more productive.
What is true is that over time, eye muscles tend to get weaker like other parts of our body. I think we can all relate to the fact that a physically fit 20 year old will always be stronger and faster than the same individual that has done their best to be physical fit at 50.
In our next Eye Strain post we will discuss other treatment options, which will include those for eye muscle imbalances and just simple repetitive strain relief tactics.