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Can Eye Strain Cause Headaches?

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Young professional having a head ache after hours of computer screen exposure

In the modern age of online meetings and endless screen work, digital eye strain affects many people. Blurry vision, tired eyes, and muscle strain are all hallmarks of the condition, but can it also be blamed for your headaches?

Eye strain can manifest as a dull pain or headache behind the eyes. Using all the focusing power of your eyes over a long stretch of time can lead to eye strain and headaches.

While occasional eye strain headaches are normal in the digital age, you don’t have to live with those symptoms. If you’re struggling with chronic eye strain, the team at Vivid Eye Care can perform a comprehensive eye exam to help you determine your options for managing digital eye strain symptoms like headaches.

What Are the Symptoms of Digital Eye Strain?

There are several symptoms that can be a sign you’ve spent too much time staring at your screen, including:

  • Watery or dry eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Momentary double or blurry vision
  • Eye fatigue
  • Eye soreness
  • Neck, back, or shoulder aches

Not only is digital eye strain uncomfortable, but it can also be disruptive. It can strike near the start of your day as you’re researching a project or while watching a movie at home at the end of the day.

Detecting incoming eye strain headaches before they set in and taking preventative measures to avoid them can make living life with screens more manageable.

What Causes Eye Strain Headaches?

As you focus on objects like screens at a close distance, your eye muscles work harder to focus, and just like any other muscles, they can get fatigued. The best way to prevent eye strain headaches is to identify the behaviour or activity causing discomfort in your eyes and head.

Taking regular breaks from activities that cause eye strain, or avoiding them if possible, can help reduce symptoms like headaches. 

Digital Screens

Digital eye strain, or computer vision syndrome, can cause headaches in several ways. Situations that contribute to headaches can include:

  • Excessive glare from digital screens
  • Low contrast or extreme brightness
  • Poor posture

If you spend 2 or more hours looking at screens without breaks, you may be more likely to develop digital eye strain. If your screen is placed at the wrong distance or angle, you can also develop digital eye strain symptoms. 

Prolonged Focus

Eye strain isn’t always a result of digital screens. Persistent focus on almost anything can be taxing on your eye muscles. Other tasks that can lead to eye strain include:

  • Reading for an extended period of time
  • Working on a project that requires close work, like knitting, sewing, or drawing
  • Long driving trips

Uncorrected Vision Problems

Minor changes in your vision can be unnoticeable for some, but uncorrected myopia, hyperopia, or astigmatism can force your eyes to work harder to focus, contributing to eye strain.

With annual eye exams, we can detect changes to your vision and update your prescription to arm your eyes with corrective lenses. 

A young woman sitting down and rubbing the temples of her head due to a headache

How Can You Prevent Eye Strain Headaches?

Eye strain headaches can ruin your day’s productivity and your quality of life. Fortunately, you can incorporate specific lifestyle habits into your high-focusing tasks to help improve your comfort and eliminate headaches.

  • Consider ergonomics: Your body’s position in relation to your screen is essential for protecting your eyes and muscles. Your screen should be at least 20 to 25 inches away from your eyes and slightly below eye level. If you wear bifocal lenses, you may have to lower your monitor marginally for more precise viewing.
  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Taking frequent breaks can help stave off eye strain symptoms while using screens. Every 20 minutes, you should look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds to give your eyes a break from near-focus work.
  • Blink and use artificial tears: As your eyes focus on your computer screen, you may absentmindedly blink less, which can dry your eyes. Keeping artificial tears nearby while working can help you give your eyes a burst of lubrication when needed. Be sure to use artificial tears recommended for your eyes by your optometrist.

Get Support in the Fight Against Eye Strain

The digital world is here to stay, but digital eye strain doesn’t have to. Visit our dedicated team at Vivid Eye Care for a thorough eye exam to test your vision, assess the ocular structures of your eyes, and learn the tips we use to overcome digital eye strain.

Schedule an appointment in Calgary today!

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Our Cranston Market clinic is part of the Cranston Market Clinic and is just 2 minutes off Deerfoot Trail near Stoney Trail SE. We’re located on Cranston Road SE, located in the same plaza as Sobeys and Scotiabank.

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  • 356 Cranston Road SE #1020
  • Calgary, AB T3M 0S9

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  • Calgary, AB T2J 7E1

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