What Causes Eye Strain?

by Lance Kugler, MD

Eye strain is a common problem, especially now that so many of us have extended screen time at work and at home. If your eyes are feeling tired and achy, you may be experiencing the effects of eye strain. When you have eye strain, it’s common to feel like you want to close your eyes, stop what you’re working on, and just go to bed. In some cases, eye strain can make you feel exhausted, give you a headache, or even make you dizzy.

Other symptoms of eye strain include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Eye dryness
  • Eye discomfort
  • Double vision
woman rubbing her eyes at her laptop

You’ve probably felt the effects of eye strain at one time or another. So what causes eye strain and what can you do to prevent and address the issue?

Glare Can Cause Eye Strain

Glare is caused by excessive and uncontrolled brightness. The right type of lighting can create all the difference, whether in a work or home environment. You may also notice glare from the sun while driving. If you drive or spend time outside during the day, invest in a pair of sunglasses with UV protection. You will notice a difference.

Uncorrected Vision Problems Can Cause Eye Strain

Even a minor uncorrected vision problem can cause eye strain or headaches. A small but uncorrected refractive error can almost be worse than having a large vision problem. When you experience a large vision problem, you usually go to an eye doctor to have your vision corrected. When you have a small, uncorrected vision problem, you may find yourself attempting to compensate by squinting or focusing hard. This eye workout leaves you exhausted at the end of the day.

The only way to know for sure what your visual acuity is, and to rule out refractive error as a source of your eye discomfort, is to schedule an eye exam with a vision professional. At Kugler Vision in Omaha, we offer the region’s most advanced diagnostic testing as part of our EyeAnalysisTM advanced eye assessment.

Dr. Kugler explaining an eye condition to patient.

Dry Eyes Can Cause Eye Strain

You may experience eye strain after reading for a long time, on a screen or from a book. In this case, dry eye may be causing eye strain. Whenever you focus on a computer screen or read a book for a long time, your blink rate decreases, which causes your eyes to become dry.

Normally, you blink about 15 times per minute, but studies show you blink about a half to a third that often while using computers and other digital devices. Anytime you concentrate on something, your blink rate slows down. When you do not blink normally, your natural lubricating tear film does not get renewed. When your eyes are not lubricated properly, they feel tired and strained.

woman putting in eyedrops closeup

Eye strain that is specifically linked to repetitive, long hours at a computer screen is referred to as digital eye strain or computer vision syndrome (CVS). If you work daily at a computer and are frequently experiencing eye strain, it may be a good idea to get an assessment to see if you are suffering from one of these conditions.

Tips to Prevent and Relieve Eye Strain

Much of the average person’s everyday eye strain can be prevented or eased by following some very simple tips. Luckily, these solutions are easily accessible and can be done just about anywhere.

To help avoid or relieve eye strain:

  • Sit about 25 inches, or an arm’s length, from your computer screen.
  • Position your computer screen so your eye gaze is slightly downward.
  • If your device has a glass screen with considerable glare, consider using a matte screen filter to reduce glare.
  • Take regular breaks using the 20-20-20 rule — every 20 minutes, look at an object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use artificial tears to refresh your eyes when they feel dry.
  • Remember to schedule your annual eye exam.

woman at a computer following the eye strain rules

Eyes Still Strained?

If your eyes continue to be red, blurry, or watery, or they become sensitive to light or painful, please contact Kugler Vision today at 402.558.2211. Our vision experts are here to help.

kugler vision doctor lance kugler

Lance Kugler, MD, is a specialist in vision correction surgery and CEO of Kugler Vision. A proud Omaha native, he is passionate about improving lives through clear vision. Dr. Kugler serves on several national boards, and his practice is recognized internationally as a center of excellence. Dr. Kugler is one of the original founders of the Refractive Surgery Alliance, an international organization comprised of over 350 of the world’s leading vision correction surgeons; he also served as its first president. In 2019, Dr. Kugler was selected as a TEDx speaker, and delivered a talk in Omaha about the worldwide epidemic of nearsightedness and refractive solutions. Dr. Kugler is an associate professor of Refractive Surgery at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Truhlsen Eye Institute, has been published in many medical journals, and participates in numerous clinical studies to advance the field of vision correction surgery. Dr. Kugler and his wife are proud parents to five active kids. When he has a spare moment, he enjoys skiing, tennis, travel, and fine coffee.

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