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Eye Strain: Risk Factors, Symptoms, Treatment

Updated on August 15, 2016
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Cynthia is a writer, artist, and teacher. She loves studying language, arts and culture and sharing that knowledge.

Looking for ways to reduce eyestrain.
Looking for ways to reduce eyestrain. | Source

What Is Eye Strain?

Eye strain is the overuse of the eyes to the point where you begin to have symptoms such as blurred vision or an inability to focus.

Find out if you are at risk to getting eye strain, what to do and how to prevent it.

You Can Prevent Eyestrain

Not too long ago, I began working on my computer for extended lengths of time. After several hours of working, I started noticing that sometimes it was hard to focus on objects farther away. It also felt like I had itchy, dry eyes – symptoms of eye strain.

I began to worry a bit. I am blind in one eye, so I want to be doubly sure that I’m treating my good eye with the respect it deserves.

I definitely don’t take my vision for granted. After doing a little online checking, I decided to check with my eye doctor to be sure that not only I could treat my eye strain, but that I could prevent it, too.

I found out all sorts of things! I had no idea how effective an anti-reflective coating could be or that I could use eye drops as an eye strain preventative.

Indeed, eye strain won't cause you to go blind, but it can hinder you from seeing and feeling your best.


Have you been refracted for mid-length vision?

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Eye Strain Risk Factors

You are a potential candidate for eyestrain if:

  • you spend more than four hours per day in front of a computer screen
  • you engage in other activities that make the eyes work hard, such as reading for extended amounts of time, or even watching too much TV
  • you live in a dry climate
  • you haven’t checked with your eye doctor to see if you need a refraction - basically an eye exam - for mid-length vision.

Computer glasses can guard against eye strain.  You can also use a present pair of glasses and get an anti-reflective coating put on the lenses.
Computer glasses can guard against eye strain. You can also use a present pair of glasses and get an anti-reflective coating put on the lenses. | Source

Eye Strain Symptoms

I knew that when it was hard to focus after I looked away from my computer that I was experiencing mild eye strain.

There are lots of possible symptoms including any or all of the following:

  • itchy, dry eyes
  • sore neck or even a sore back
  • blurry vision after working at a computer
  • headache associated with eye fatigue
  • sensation of burning in the eyes

Put lubricant eye drops in your eyes before you start working.  This can help ward off eye strain.  My doctor also told me to stay away from cheaper generic brands, saying they weren't as effective.
Put lubricant eye drops in your eyes before you start working. This can help ward off eye strain. My doctor also told me to stay away from cheaper generic brands, saying they weren't as effective. | Source

Eye Strain Treatment

The following are remedies you can try at home. However, it’s always a good idea to check with your optometrist or ophthalmologist to be sure you are receiving the care you need for your eyes.

At Home:

If you spend a lot of time at the computer:

  • Reduce overhead lighting and try to use more natural light. Harsh light is hard on the eyes.
  • Turn the backlight down on your computer so that it your monitor isn't at its maximum brightness.
  • Clean the dust off of your screen/monitor. Dust on the screen can make it harder to see and read on your computer.
  • Lower your computer screen so that you actually look down at it, especially if you wear bifocals (or progressive lenses). This way, you can reduce the stress placed on your neck and back by not craning your head to see what you are doing.
  • Invest in a pair of computer readers. Many dollar stores and office supply stores have glasses with a special coating on them for the computer (an anti-reflective coating). Be sure you know your prescription, however. You really should check with your eye doctor or optician if you are at all in doubt.
  • Take breaks about every 20 minutes or so. This can mean that you look away from your screen for half a minute, or that you get up and walk around a bit before returning to your work.

Other eye strain remedies:

  • Do different eye exercises. Begin by squinting each eye one by one, and moving your eyes in circles several times daily. You can also try closing your eyes and and then moving your eyes around with the lids closed.
  • Make sure to blink frequently to replenish the tears in your eyes to keep them moist.
  • Eat lots of eye-healthy foods including carrots, pumpkin, blueberries, and even taking fish oil and vitamin C supplements (but be sure to check with your eye doctor to be sure what you’re doing is right for you). Bilberry and chromium are great sources for helping the eyes.
  • Get over-the-counter lubricant eye drops and put the drops in your eyes before you start working.
  • Drink plenty of water while you’re working. Staying hydrated will help your eyes stay moist as well.
  • Humidify the air around you if you live in a dry climate or if the air is dry. Use a humidifier or let the steam accumulate from a shower.

Glasses made with polycarbonate plastic filter UV rays and may also help with reducing eye strain.  You can also take them to an optician to get an anti-reflective coating put on the lenses.  That coating helps to reduce eye-strain.
Glasses made with polycarbonate plastic filter UV rays and may also help with reducing eye strain. You can also take them to an optician to get an anti-reflective coating put on the lenses. That coating helps to reduce eye-strain. | Source
Most cameras today also have anti-reflective coating on their lenses.  This greatly helps to reduce the risk of unwanted glare in photos.
Most cameras today also have anti-reflective coating on their lenses. This greatly helps to reduce the risk of unwanted glare in photos. | Source

At the Eye Doctor:

When you make an appointment, be sure to tell your doctor that you would like to have a computer refraction.

According to an optician at the Colorado Springs Eye Clinic (where I recently received an eye exam), most people who go to the eye doctor get refractions for distance or for reading up close. Most do not get a mid-distance refraction.

  • Seeing the doctor when you suspect eye strain will also help you to rule out any other underlying conditions that may contribute to eye strain.
  • I mentioned getting computer readers above. You have another option: computer glasses. This is the route I took because I already wear glasses. I had previously been refracted for distance and my mid-distance prescription was actually different.
  • When you get computer glasses, keep the following in mind:
  1. Try to get polycarbonate lenses (or another high-end plastic). These help block out some of the UV rays that your computer monitor can emit, according to my optician at the Colorado Springs Eye Clinic.
  2. if you happen to have Transitions lenses, these can help with lowering the light intensity that you experience from your computer monitor. Even when they’re completely “clear,” they still have a slight tint that can help reduce glare - just a little bit, though.
  3. Get the anti-reflective coating, commonly called anti-glare coating. This not only helps reduce glare, but allows the maximum amount of light through the lenses which will help the eyes to see better. Glasses without this coating only let about 90% of light through the lenses, which can make it more difficult to see.
  4. A good rule of thumb is that if you are involved in eye-intense activities (think mid-distance activities such as computer work, reading, writing, or even watching TV) for more than 4 hours per day, you should really get checked for your mid-distance vision.

© 2012 Cynthia Sageleaf

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    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Cool, Citigirl! Thanks for the great hub and advice - I shouldn't strain my eyes so often looking at the comp everyday.

    • Kristen Haynie profile image

      Kristen Haynie 5 years ago from Modesto, CA

      I spend most of my day either writing on my computer or reading books. I recently started to notice that I have a lot of trouble focusing after just a half hour of doing either one of these activities. It was really frustrating. I would get headaches and my eyes would hurt. I finally went to see an optometrist and, sure enough, I was straining my eyes while doing these activities. I got a pair of polycarbonate eyeglasses to wear only when I'm reading or writing. The glasses allow me to do these things for long periods of time without any discomfort or suffering at all. I'm really glad I realized that I needed to do something.

      This hub has some really great information in it! I wish I would have come across this a couple of years ago, it would have saved me a lot of frustration over not being able to focus in on what I was doing!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 5 years ago from United States

      This is a hub full of useful information and I doubt any of use who are on the computer so often don't have some degree of eyestrain. Thanks for an interesting and helpful hub.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      midget38 - thanks for stopping by! Yep, take care of those eyes - they're the only ones you've got! :)

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Kristen - thanks for coming by. I am like you - I spend most of my day writing or reading. I was a little alarmed when I had trouble focusing. I just ordered a new pair of computer glasses and though I have polycarbonate glasses right now, I am looking forward to my new pair with the anti-reflective coating. :) Thanks for your awesome, insightful comments. :)

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Pamela99 - hi there! Thank you so much for stopping by at another of my hubs! I appreciate you. :) I'm so glad you found this useful and helpful. I appreciate your wonderful feedback. Have a wonderful day! ~C.Calhoun

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      clason - when I get a chance, I'll have a look-see at your hubs. I will look for your writing. Have a great day. ~C. Calhoun

    • Outbound Dan profile image

      Dan Human 5 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      Great Hub, and one that most online workers and freelance writers probably could use. Staring at the computer for several hours a day does lead to an uncomfortable eye strain. This is one reason why I try to make my recreational activities as non-computer related as possible. My glasses with anti-glare help immensely.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Hey, Dan! How are you? Thanks for stopping by. I'm back from Colorado and writing away! I'll stop by and visit some of your recent hubs. They look great, as always. The eye strain thing was driving me crazy, and I thought I'd share my experiences, hoping it would help others, as well. Thanks again. Cheers!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks for sharing your knowledge about vision and eye wear. I just got new glasses and am picking them up tomorrow. I don't seem to be bothered by the computer or eyestrain. I just have a problem with distance. Great Hub!

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      For me, the biggest help is taking a break from the computer, which you already suggest. It also prevents strain on other body parts, such as my back, which can be held in position for too long. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Rebecca - thank goodness you don't have eye strain! Hooray for new glasses! I love getting new ones - out with the old! Thanks for your feedback. Hubhugs!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      alocsin - man, after writing two hubs yesterday, my back and eyes were going nuts. I can't forget to take my own advice. Hehe. Now where did I put those eyedrops? Thanks for coming by. :)

    • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

      Tracy Lynn Conway 5 years ago from Virginia, USA

      Extremely useful and well written! Great information here! I will have to bookmark this one and start taking better care of my eyes. Voted up and useful.

      Tracy

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Tracy - thank you so much! I definitely wanted to share what I learned about eye strain since I think a lot of us spend lots of time sitting in front of a computer. Thanks again for coming by. :) Cheers!

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Excellent material, Cindy! Voted up and awesome for your well-earned hub!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      aviannovice - hey there again. :) Thanks for your feedback and wonderful, warm words. I appreciate you stopping by. Hubhugs. :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      I probably need to make an appointment. I have noticed a slight difference in my vision since I started writing. Your advice works!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Teaches! Hi, buddy! I'm so glad you came by. Thanks so much for your kind words and I'm glad you found this helpful. My mom always told me to take care of my teeth and vision. For some reason, I really listened to her on this one. :D Thanks again! Hubhugs.

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I think the problem is now not only is the computer a large source of entertainment but also a large source of work. When I get done with work I usually come home, eat, exercise, and then get back on the computer. And I know it's doing my eyes in but I think this hub is very helpful in giving information in keeping your eyes healthy! Thanks for the advice!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Alecia - Indeed, when I've finished working, I'm still on the dang computer. Hehehe. Keep those eyes healthy! Great to see you! :) Hubhugs.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      This has got to be one of the most useful hubs for hubbers, ever! As you pointed out early on, our eyes are so important and yet we take advantage of them and often abuse them, especially sitting in front of the computer for hours on end. I hope every hubber reads this article so I am sharing with my followers!

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      tillsontitan - hi there, thanks for coming by! Indeed, I definitely try not to take my vision for granted. But, after checking with the eye doctor and getting computer glasses, my eyes don't reel from a day at the computer. Thank you for the votes, too. Hubhugs!

    • profile image

      kelleyward 4 years ago

      Cyndi, this hub is just what the doctor ordered for me today! I've been having issues and I think it's because my backlight was too bright. Thanks for all the tips. I decreased the intensity and my eyes already feel better. Voted up, across, and shared! Kelley

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Kelley - thank you so much! I know once I turned down the backlight, and started to take little breaks throughout the day, my eyes felt so much better. Thank you so much for your comments. :)

    • Rusticliving profile image

      Elizabeth Rayen 4 years ago from California

      I am a prime candidate for eye strain because of all the computer work I do. The tips are so useful and make so much sense. Thank you so much for sharing this important information Cyndi! :) Thumbs up and shared!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Lisa, dear god, do NOT, I repeat DO NOT confuse eye drops with Preparation H. HAHAHAHA. Anyway, thank you so much for coming by. :) Yeah...lots of work at the computer requires a little eye care. :) Hubhugs!

    • Rusticliving profile image

      Elizabeth Rayen 4 years ago from California

      LOL Cyndi.... Uhhhhh I'm not the one you should be telling this to!!! Oh MOMmmmmm!!!!!!!!!! LOL

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Lisa - there IS that. I mean, you only kept the toothpaste on the counter...and the PH at the TOP of the cabinet. Hehe. Where's Vocalcoach? :D

    • lindalou1963 profile image

      Linda 4 years ago from Texas

      Oh my gosh... you have hit the nail on the head!! I thought I had a sinus infection, but when I was reading this, I realized that since I've gotten this new MacBook from my college, I spend most of my free time on it! I don't have TV so I watch movies, write, Facebook, hub pages... etc etc... NOW I know why I have burning eyes and headaches.... duh me!

      Thank you!!!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Lindalou - it's not always obvious that it's eyestrain - it took me awhile to figure out why I was having trouble focusing on things farther away and I'd get headaches, too. I'm glad you were able to figure it out and...ahh...you have a MacBook. I love those! :)

    • lindalou1963 profile image

      Linda 4 years ago from Texas

      I love mine too! The college provides them for newbies, financial aid paid for mine!! Thankfully.... maybe I can eventually dig my way out of this hole!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Lindalou - I don't have a macbook, but by golly, that's my NEXT computer. :D

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      Great hub for those of us who spend a lot of time at the computer and if you are a writer--you are. Thanks for sharing all these solutions.

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Carol - Since I implemented the steps to prevent eye-strain, I haven't had a problem since. Oh, it's so nice to be able to "focus" when I want. Haha. Thanks so much for stopping by! :)

    • profile image

      AudraLeigh 4 years ago

      Hi Cyndi!

      First of all, I had no idea that you were blind in one eye. Did your blindness occur at birth? Or, did you have an illness or accident?

      2. I really am interested in doing the exercises you mentioned. I wear glasses...I am severely far-sided with astigmatism in both eyes...making me pretty much near-sited too. Your info can help me a great deal!

      Finally, I am excited to read more of your work too! You seem to have a vast amount of good subjects to look at!

      Voted up and shared!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      AudraLeigh - first of all, I am so glad you're back at HP. I really missed you and your poems and pictures. :)

      Second, the eye exercises are good. They do help - at least for me.

      Third, yeah, I can't see out of my right eye since birth. One of those things, I guess. Oh well...c'est la vie. Thank you so much for all the comments and shares. You're awesome!

    • AlexK2009 profile image

      AlexK2009 4 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

      Nice work. Your circumstances are the same as mine and I try to take screen breaks and use large type even if I don't need it.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      AlexK2009 - large type is good...and carrots and pumpkin and blueberries. Hehe

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