Nearly everyone can attest to the frustrations that can come with a headache. Depending on what triggers a person’s headache, the associated pain can range in severity and feel as subtle as a dull throb or an incapacitating sharp pain in more extreme cases.

Headaches caused by eye strain are a less common yet increasingly growing source of headaches, especially in today’s small and digital world. When you are overly focused on something, such as a computer screen or phone, the intense focus (paired with blue light from the screens) can cause the brain to tire quickly, causing a formation of the headache, usually felt between the eyes.

Another reason that eye strain can occur is by wearing the wrong or outdated prescription of glasses and contacts, which is why it is recommended a person sees an eye clinic approximately every two years to ensure their prescription is up to date.

Other Symptoms of Eye Strain

Besides the pain of a headache, eye strain can also come with other negative symptoms, such as the following:

  • Sore and tender eyes
  • Dry, itchy, watery, or red eyes
  • Blurred vision and dizziness
  • Pain in the shoulders, neck, and back (worsened by poor postured when looking at a screen)
  • Having a hard time keeping one or both eyes open
  • Difficulty with concentration
  • Sensitivity to light

It is important to note that eye strain is only temporary, and your symptoms should dissipate after your eyes have had time to rest properly.

Why Screentime Impacts Eye Strain

The most common cause of eye strain is an overuse of staring at a digital screen like a computer or phone, also known as computer vision syndrome.

When your eyes are focused on a screen, you are less likely to blink, causing dry and irritated eyes. Additionally, reading a font that is too small can cause your eyes to work extra hard or your brow to furrow, leading to tension in both. Other factors such as reflective glare, poor contrast between website background and text, and placement too close or far to the screen can also cause these issues.

If you work with a screen for extended periods of time, ensure that you are taking frequent breaks, or at the very least, follow the 20-20-20 rule, which means that every 20 minutes you are on the computer, you look away at something roughly 20 feet away, for approximately 20 seconds, and allow your eyes to re-focus.

When Should You See a Doctor?

While almost all eye strain should clear itself up after you’ve had enough time to rest your eyes, you should see a professional healthcare professional if you experience any of the following:

  • Chronic headaches, or one that won’t go away even after rest
  • Intensely blurred vision
  • Intense and stabbing eye pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Vertigo, or trouble keeping your balance

If you suspect your eyewear is to blame for your eye strain, be sure to book with your eye doctor as soon as possible, as they can also help check for other eye-related conditions that may be the source of your strains.