Blog Hero

How Long Can Eye Strain Last?

Book Appointment
A woman taking off her glasses and rubbing the bridge of her nose

If you’ve ever spent too long focusing intently on something and noticed a throbbing, sore sensation in your eyes, you may have been experiencing digital eye strain. This is a common problem that can develop when you spend too long focusing on something at a fixed distance, like when you’re working at a computer or watching TV for a long time. 

Usually, eye strain only lasts for a few hours after you take a break, but the symptoms can last longer in some cases. The amount of time eye strain lasts can depend greatly on the degree of your eye strain and whether or not you actively take measures to prevent it from worsening. Other underlying issues, like dry eye disease, may also play a role in how long your discomfort lasts. 

When you start to feel eye strain, it’s time to step back and take a short break. When your symptoms last for a long period of time or keep coming back, it’s time to think about seeing an eye doctor. Your eyes will thank you.

What Causes Eye Strain?

Your eyes are full of tiny muscles and interconnected systems that have evolved to let you see the world around you. These systems all work closely together to help your eye change the shape of its natural lens and focus on different things.

However, just like other parts of the human body, these muscles can become tired when they’re overworked for too long. When they’re fatigued, they may start sending signals to the brain that something’s wrong, which can lead to soreness, eyelids that feel heavy, and even headaches.

Eye strain is often called digital eye strain or computer vision syndrome when it’s related to time spent looking at a screen. However, while it commonly occurs when you’re at a computer, it can occur in any environment where you focus on something at a fixed distance for too long.

Signs & Symptoms of Eye Strain

Symptoms of eye strain are signs that your eyes are trying to communicate with you and tell you they need a break. While feelings of fatigue are a common indication of eye strain, they aren’t the only symptom. Other common signs and symptoms of eye strain include:

  • Blurred or double vision
  • Headaches, often in areas near your eyes
  • Difficulty concentrating on visual tasks
  • Sore, tired, or burning eyes
  • Red eyes
  • Sore neck or back muscles
  • Discomfort when looking at screens

These are all signs that your eyes are reaching their limit, and it’s time to take a break.

A woman sits at a table with her laptop and tablet. She has her glasses next to her, and she is rubbing her temples due to eye strain

Does Eye Strain Go Away On Its Own?

If you’ve ever exercised and felt that sore, tired, heavy feeling in your muscles, you’ve likely noticed that one thing that really seems to help is rest. Eye strain is quite similar—when the muscles in your eyes are tired, they can benefit from a break.

There are a few ways you can give your eyes a break. Stand up, go for a short walk, or even just look away from your screen for a few minutes. This helps your eyes readjust to different focusing points, giving you and your eyes a chance to rest.

As long as you take a break, the symptoms often go away within a few hours. In some situations, they might linger a little longer—it depends on the severity of your symptoms. However, if you notice this condition affecting you every time you’re at your desk, it’s time to visit an optometrist to find out if something else may be affecting your eyes.

Tips for Preventing Eye Strain

Here’s some good news for those who experience eye strain. You can take some active steps to prevent soreness and other symptoms from developing in the first place—and manage your symptoms when they do appear.

Here are a few tips:

  • Adjust your workspace to be ergonomic and comfortable. Make sure your computer monitor is about arm’s length away, with the top just slightly below eye level. Make sure you don’t have to twist or crane your neck to see your screen clearly.
  • Maintain proper posture, and make sure your back is properly supported. Slouching can lead to odd angles in your neck, which can make symptoms of eye strain worse.
  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something roughly 20 feet away. This gives your eyes a chance to refocus—and can provide a much-needed break.
  • Adjust your screen settings. Brightness, contrast, and monitor angle can all contribute to eye strain. Try to adjust your screen so that looking at it feels comfortable, and it doesn’t reflect ambient light or glare from nearby windows.

If you find none of these strategies help, it’s time to visit your optometrist to talk about eye strain and what could be causing your symptoms.

Get Help for Your Eye Strain

If you find that your eye strain is starting to interfere with your everyday life, reach out to our team here at The Eye Care Centre. Our staff can recommend an appropriate approach to treating your eye strain and give you up-to-date advice on preventing future problems. 

We can also perform a comprehensive eye exam to see if there may be another condition causing your symptoms. Don’t suffer needlessly—book an appointment with our team today!

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.
instagram facebook facebook2 pinterest twitter google-plus google linkedin2 yelp youtube phone location calendar share2 link star-full star star-half chevron-right chevron-left chevron-down chevron-up envelope fax