Eyestrain is a common condition that occurs when your eyes get tired from intense use, such as while driving long distances or staring at computer screens and other digital devices.
Eyestrain can be annoying. But it usually isn't serious and goes away once you rest your eyes or take other steps to reduce your eye discomfort. In some cases, signs and symptoms of eyestrain can indicate an underlying eye condition that needs treatment.
Symptoms of eyestrain
Eyestrain signs and symptoms include:
Sore, tired, burning or itching eyes
Watery or dry eyes
Blurred or double vision
Sore neck, shoulders or back
Increased sensitivity to light
Feeling that you cannot keep your eyes open
Causes of eyestrain
Common causes of eyestrain include:
Looking at digital device screens
Reading without pausing to rest your eyes
Driving long distances and doing other activities involving extended focus
Being exposed to bright light or glare
Straining to see in dim light
Having an underlying eye problem, such as dry eyes or uncorrected vision (refractive error)
Being stressed or fatigued
Exposure to dry moving air from a fan, heating or air-conditioning system
Extended use of computers and other digital devices is one of the most common causes of eyestrain. The American Optometric Association calls this computer vision syndrome or digital eyestrain. People who look at screens two or more hours in a row every day are at greatest risk of this condition.
Computer use strains eyes more than reading print material because people tend to:
Blink less while using computers (blinking is key to moistening the eyes)
View digital screens at less-than-ideal distances or angles
Use devices that have glare or reflection
Use devices with poor contrast between the text and the background
In some cases, an underlying eye problem, such as eye muscle imbalance or uncorrected vision, can cause or worsen computer eyestrain.
Some other factors that can make the condition worse include:
Glare on your screen
Setup of your computer work station
Circulating air, such as from air conditioning or a nearby fan