Eye Strain (asthenopia)

What is eye strain and how can you avoid it?

Anyone who works long hours in front of a computer, reads a lot, or spends a lot of time on their mobile phone knows about eye strain. People who stay awake for most of the day, driving, reading and working, also tend to develop eye strain.

Eye strain can be a nuisance and can interfere with your daily activities. However, if consistently neglected, eye strain can worsen and may require serious treatment. To clarify, eye strain is not categorised as a disease, but rather as a symptom.

Anyone who works as a writer, or other visually intensive career, may experience these symptoms more regularly depending on the nature of their job. Although a career change is unlikely, they can certainly take preventative measures to ensure they do not strain their eyes.

How is eye strain caused?

Eye strain (which is medically referred to as asthenopia) is caused by ocular fatigue. When eye muscles are fixed on one object or task for long periods, blurry vision, headaches, and eye strain may result as a consequence. People who suffer from eye muscle strain might also experience double vision, headaches and/or migraines.

Eye strain symptoms may increase when you read fine print, use the computer at a short distance, read in weak lighting, or squint to see objects in the distance.


When eye muscles are tensed and overused, it leads to more distress on the nerves, further increasing eye strain. This can be the case for people who play computer games for extended hours without giving their eyes the chance to rest or blink at a normal pace. When their eyes are fixed in one direction, and in dim light, the eyes are exposed to heightened glare. This can increase the chance of developing dry eyes, since the eye isn’t blinking enough, resulting in an increase of eye strain pain.

Another contributing factor to eye strain can be not having the correct, or no prescription in place for your eyes. When this happens, it is highly recommended you visit your optometrist to have your prescription checked and corrected. Other eye conditions such as myopia (short- sightedness), hyperopia (long-sightedness), presbyopia (an age-related change that leads to a struggle focusing at near distances such as reading) and astigmatism (distorted vision) play a role in the worsening of eye strain, headache and blurred vision.

Lastly, wearing glasses with an incorrect or outdated prescription can also be the cause of eye strain.

Eye strain symptoms

The most common signs of eye strain are:

  • Soreness of the eyes
  • Dryness and discomfort
  • Blurry, hazy vision
  • Sore back and neck
  • Double vision
  • Difficulty focusing and concentrating on objects
  • Sensitivity to light – both natural and artificial
  • Feeling a tight sensation in the temples and forehead
  • Frequent headaches such as migraines

Is there a treatment or permanent solution for eye strain?

Sitting for hours in one spot, scrolling through your screen, or writing continuously seems to be one of the main causes of eye strain. The increase of this cause has resulted in the new term CVS, meaning computer vision syndrome.

Eye strain varies according to lifestyle. With or without CVS, degrees of eye strain range from mild to severe. In most cases, eye strain can go away after taking some rest from the activity you were focused on.

Regardless of the situation, eye strain should not be ignored. Neglecting eye strain can lead to long-term consequences, such as changes in eyesight, watery eyes, or possibly other eye conditions.

Of course, prevention is always better than seeking a cure. Come to one of our stores for your regular eye examination.

Eye strain prevention

Here are some ways eye strain can be prevented, reduced, and sometimes even eliminated:

  • Give your eyes plenty of rest: There is nothing like closing your eyes and feeling that cooling sensation after a long, hectic day. Even though you may not be able to close your eyes for long, take a moment to close them for a few seconds when possible.
  • Adjust the lighting: The type of light we work in plays a key role in eye health. Avoid working and reading in poor light, and wherever possible, replace it with a more natural light such as sunlight.
  • Use of computers and mobile phones: Our everyday life revolves around these two devices. Although you usually cannot stop using your computer, laptop or mobile phone, you can set your screen brightness to a more appropriate level for reading.
  • Take frequent breaks: Doing any task for a long time in one spot can be both visually and physically tiring. Get up and take a brief walk for a few minutes. You may also want to add in some stretches and practice eye exercises such as the 20–20–20 rule: after 20 minutes of nearby work, look at something about 20 feet away and focus on it for 20 seconds.

How healthy are your eyes?

Our online eye health test is a great way to identify potential issues or just confirm that everything is actually ok. Take this two minute test and if you’re concerned in any way, you can book an eye test appointment or call and speak to our qualified optical people.

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