The eye, with the help of the ciliary muscle, views objects that are at varying distance. The ciliary muscle is a smooth muscle in the eye which tightens due to continuous focus on a book or computer. This may cause discomfort in the eye called eye fatigue or eye strain.

What is an Eye Fatigue or Eye Strain?

An opthalmological condition that occurs due to strain in the eyes due to constant focus in the tasks like reading, writing, driving or working on a computer is called eye fatigue. Eye fatigue is also known as asthenopia or eye strain. It cannot be termed as an eye disorder, as it is a symptom.

Eye fatigue or eye strain is an acute symptom which goes away easily through relaxing the eyes. However, recurring eye fatigue or eye strain may be a symptom to an eye disorder.

Eye Fatigue or Eye Strain

Signs and Symptoms of Eye Fatigue or Eye Strain

The signs and symptoms of Eye Fatigue or Eye Strain include:

  • Dry or watery eyes
  • Sore or irritated eyes
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Impaired focusing on images
  • Growing sensitivity to light
  • Burning or itching eyes can be a sign of eye fatigue or eye strain
  • Brow-ache
  • Tightness of temples
  • Sore neck
  • Back pain

These symptoms of Eye Fatigue or Eye Strain may be seen individually or in a combination. Insomnia may augment these symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Discomfort in the eyes
  • Blurred or double vision

Causes of Eye Fatigue or Eye Strain

The causes of Eye Fatigue or Eye Strain are:

  • Eye Fatigue or Eye Strain Caused Due To Intensive Use of Eyes: The activities in which the eyes are used intensively, include:
    • Reading
    • Writing
    • Using electronic devices extensively
    • Long distance driving
  • Eye Fatigue or Eye Strain Caused Due To Light: Straining in the eye can be caused due to an exposure to a glare or bright light. Seeing in dim light can also lead to eye fatigue or straining of the eye.
  • Eye Fatigue or Eye Strain Caused Due To Extended Period of Focus: Straining in the eye can be caused due to extended period of focus and concentration. It includes activities like long distance driving, reading etc.
  • Eye Fatigue or Eye Strain Caused Due To Computer Vision Syndrome: It is referred to prolonged use of computer or laptop that causes eye fatigue. About 50-90% of people working on computers get affected from this syndrome. Computer vision syndrome may get worse if there is an uncontrolled use of devices which may lead to impaired vision or imbalance in eye muscle. The extensive use of smart phones and other electronic devices is related to eye fatigue as there is less blinking while looking at a computer than looking at a book. More than 10 million primary health care tests are undertaken due to the use of electronics.

Diagnosis of Eye Fatigue or Eye Strain

The diagnosis of eye fatigue is undertaken on the history of the vision impairment or eye diseases and the signs and symptoms reported by the patients.

Prevention of Eye Fatigue or Eye Strain

Since prevention is better than cure, it is important to prevent eye fatigue or Eye Strain rather than getting prone to it. The eye fatigue can be prevented by adapting new work habits or changing work environment. These include:

  • Adapting New Work Habits to Prevent Eye Fatigue or Eye Strain:
    • Take regular breaks from intensive work like reading, writing or working on a computer to prevent your eyes from getting fatigued or strained.
    • Apply 20-20 rule i.e. looking away from the computer screen up to a distance of 20 feet for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. This helps in reducing the stress in the eyes and preventing eye fatigue or eye strain.
    • Paste a note that reminds to "blink" on a computer.
  • Preventing Eye Fatigue or Eye Strain by Changing Work Environment:This includes making changes to the computer screen and also the work environment.
    • Adjusting the Computer Screen:
      • Placing the screen about 25 inches away from the eyes.
      • Adjusting the screen below eye level.
      • Using a rotating screen.
      • Cleaning the dust and fingerprints off the screen regularly.
      • If possible, use a glare filter on the computer screen.
    • Changes in Work Environment:
      • Using an adjustable chair.
      • Adjusting the lighting in the room, i.e. making sure it is not too bright or too dim.
      • Avoiding a light above or behind a computer screen to reduce glare reflections.
      • Placing a document holder beside the computer screen to get an easy access to documents and other materials
      • Placing the keyboard in front and making sure it's not too high or not too low.

Exercises for Relieving Eye Fatigue or Eye Strain

There are 6 exercises to relieve eye fatigue and strengthening the eyes. They include:

  • Near and Far Focusing Eye Exercises To Get Relief From Fatigued or Strained Eye: This exercise will strengthen the vision and help in maintaining the vision level. This exercise consists of focusing a near object, i.e. 5-10 feet away for 10 seconds and focusing on a far object i.e. 15-20 feet away for 10 seconds. This should be repeated atleast for 5 times.
  • Zooming Exercises of the Eye To Relieve Eye Fatigue or Eye Strain: This exercise will help in strengthening the eye muscle and improve the focusing. The exercise includes focusing on a pencil from one arm's length, and moving the pencil towards either side, with continuous focus on it till the pencil gets out of sight. This should be repeated 10 times every day.
  • Repeated Blinking Eye Exercise To Get Relief From Fatigued Eye or Strained Eye: This exercise plays a crucial role in eye health as it helps in the proper functioning of the cornea in the eye. Generally, we blink less during certain activities like watching T.V., reading a book, driving and working on a computer. Repeated blinking should be done for 10 seconds at least 5 times a day.
  • Making 8 figures with Eyes: This eye exercise helps in strengthening eye movement. The exercise should be done by imagining a huge 8 at a distance of 10 feet and move the eyes in that direction. This should be done for at least a minute repeatedly and is quite effective in providing relief to fatigues or strained eye.
  • Palming the Eyes To Get Relief From Eye Fatigue or Eye Strain: This exercise for the eye helps in relieving the stress in the ciliary muscle. This exercise includes stretching the upper eyelids with the help of three fingers of both the hands for approx 3 minutes. Taking a few deep breaths in between will lead to relaxation.
  • Rolling the eye Exercise For Eye Fatigue or Eye Strain: This exercise strengthens eye movement. It includes rotating eyes clockwise for 5-10 minutes and anticlockwise for 5-10 minutes by taking a break for 2-5 minutes in between.

Tips to Relieve Eye Fatigue or Eye Strain

Few remedial tips to relieve Eye Fatigue or Eye Strain include:

  • Using artificial tears to treat dry eyes. It helps in refreshing and moistening the eyes and providing relief from Eye Fatigue or Eye Strain.
  • Applying a wet flannel on closed eyes to relieve stress and pain in the eyes.
  • Using an air cleaner that filters the dust and adds moisture in the air in a closed room to treat dry or itching eyes.
  • Wearing prescribed glasses or lenses help in relieving eye fatigue. If the person is already wearing glasses, one should get an updated prescription of it to check the increase in eye power.

Also a few simple steps can help in relieving eye fatigue. These include:

  • Using a bright light if one has to do a close or minute detailed work. A brighter light helps if one has an impaired vision.
  • Watching television from a distance and also making sure about the lighting in the room. The light should be dim or dull which would be comfortable for the eyes.
  • Using a light over head or directly on the page while reading to avoid stress.

Eye fatigue or Eye Strain is not a critical disorder but a symptom which requires proper care. The present lifestyle leads to impairment in the eyes. Hence, it is inevitable to make certain precautionary moves to improve eyesight and reduce the eye strain. Most commonly, resting the eyes could relieve the discomfort. However, if there is an uncontrolled recurring of the symptoms one should see a doctor immediately as it could indicate some other underlying problem.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: October 28, 2015

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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