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Does Eye Strain Mean I Need Glasses?

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A woman seated at her computer desk holding her eyes in discomfort because of eye strain caused by looking at her laptop for long periods of time

It’s common for your eyes to feel uncomfortable or distressed from time to time. Though this is never a welcomed sensation, it doesn’t always mean it’s time to panic. Eye strain comes in many forms and can be mitigated in different ways.

Let’s explore how glasses can relieve certain forms of eye strain and discuss some techniques that might lessen the fatigue your eyes are feeling. Managing digital eye strain is another important part of healthy vision.

Deciding if eyeglasses are part of your solution to seeing clearly should always be done during a comprehensive eye exam. If you are feeling strained or notice your vision is declining, please book an appointment with Red Deer Eye Care to help your eyes feel their best. 

What is Eye Strain?

Eye strain is a condition that most of us experience at some point in our lives. It’s the feeling of your eyes being fatigued or irritated after intense focus. The use of digital devices, and our growing dependence on them, has amplified eye strain in Canada.

In many instances, your eye strain can be remedied with non-invasive methods that you can do at home. If your eyes remain fatigued after self-care treatments it could indicate underlying eye disease. Eye strain that is happening too often or drags on for long periods should be looked at by an optometrist during an eye exam

Symptoms of Eye Strain

Eye strain can take many forms but all symptoms are related to ocular discomfort. Some of the signs of eye strain include:

  • Sore, tired, burning or itching eyes
  • Dry eyes or watery eyes
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Headaches
  • Sore neck, shoulders or back
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Discomfort keeping your eyes open

Causes of Eye Strain

The symptoms of eye strain often occur after long periods of visual focus, when your eyes become tired from being overworked. But other factors can contribute to eye strain. These include:

  • Focusing on a single task for a long time, like driving or reading
  • Being exposed to bright light
  • Trying to focus in a dimly lit environment
  • General stress and fatigue
  • Dry eye
  • Being exposed to windy conditions or hot/cold air
  • Trying to focus with uncorrected vision conditions
  • Staring at digital screens for long periods

Understanding Digital Eye Strain

Our lifestyles continue to integrate digital devices into our daily routines. But our eyes can struggle with all this near-vision work. When you are viewing computer screens, cell phones, and tablets, your eyes are focused in one place for a long time and this can lead to fatigue. 

This condition is called digital eye strain. Also known as computer vision syndrome, the condition can affect anyone who spends lots of time on digital screens each day, including children. Much of the eye strain associated with computer usage can be remedied with self-help strategies throughout the day.

Digital Eye Strain Factors

Some factors related specifically to digital device use can increase the symptoms of eye strain. Extended screen time can lead to dry eyes and eye strain due to the following reasons:

  • A lower blink rate occurs when people are working or gaming on their computers. Less blinking equals fewer tears. Tears prevent your eyes from becoming dry and tired.
  • Poor posture when using a digital device which leads to viewing angles that are not ideal.
  • Squinting due to screen glare or reflections.
  • Viewing devices at wrong distances, either too close or too far from your eyes.
  • Exposure to blue light, which is emitted from most digital screens.
  • Struggling to read devices with poor contrast and lighting
A close up of a man's glasses with the reflection of the screen he's looking at in the lenses

Managing Eye Strain with Glasses

We know that the causes of eye strain are plentiful and the symptoms are vast. Not every form of eye strain requires eyeglasses to remedy. But eyes that are constantly feeling fatigued might be the first sign that you need corrective eyewear.

Consistent eye strain is your signal to schedule an eye exam. Your optometrist can determine if you require a prescription or if your current prescription needs updating. Regularly scheduled comprehensive eye exams are key for determining if getting glasses will eliminate your eye strain.

Glasses can reduce eye strain for people who are squinting or having trouble focusing because of refractive errors. Amongst other things, eyeglasses can correct vision for people who have:

Blue Light Blocking Glasses 

Blue light describes a certain frequency of light emitted by most digital devices. This type of light is healthy, boosts alertness and is also emitted by the sun. But too much blue light may disrupt your sleeping patterns and contribute to digital eye strain.

Blue light-blocking glasses are the solution for people who want to reduce their exposure to blue light. This special coating can be applied to virtually any lens. Consult our team at our optical dispensary to discuss eyewear solutions that help strained eyes.

Treating Eye Strain at Home

Regular eye exams are necessary for maintaining healthy eyes. But you can complement visits to the eye doctor with these techniques at home. If your eye strain doesn’t ease up, it’s best to schedule an appointment.

The 20-20-20 Rule

This simple rule will help reduce eye strain when you’re in a long digital session: 

Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break, and stare at something 20 feet away.

Optimize Your Work Station

Keep your work or gaming station ergonomically friendly and make it easy on your eyes. Maintain healthy posture while using computers and tablets. These guidelines can help reduce eye strain:

  • Screen positioned at eye level
  • Screen positioned an arm’s length from your face
  • Your back is about 90 degrees to your writing surface
  • Your thighs are parallel to the floor

Use Your Device Night Mode

Most devices today have a night mode that reduces blue light emission. Activate this feature If your eyes feel strained, especially at night.

Android users can follow the instructions here to activate Night Mode.

iPhone users can use these instructions for activating Night Shift.

Try Using an E-Reader

Reading can strain the eyes even if you prefer good ol’ ink and paper. Reading for long periods on a digital screen might increase your eye strain symptoms. Try using an e-reader for this activity! These specially lit devices are side-lit instead of backlit and can make it easier on your vision.

Tame the Eye Strain

Eye strain is a product of many factors, including computer usage, environmental conditions, and other health concerns. Glasses can help people with uncorrected refractive errors reduce their straining and squinting. Other causes of eye strain can be managed with lifestyle changes. Dry eye therapy and addressing your digital eye strain are both proactive ways to reduce eye fatigue. A visit with your eye doctor is the best way to determine if glasses are your answer for reducing eye strain.

Written by Dr. Daryl Berger

Dr. Berger was born and raised in Red Deer. After studying at Red Deer College and the U of A, he graduated with honours from the optometry program at Waterloo in 2007. Daryl enjoys music, cars, biking, hiking, snowboarding and travel. He and his wife, Pamela, have twin boys and a dog named Gus.
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