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ESH #62 | Symptoms of Eye Strain


Last week we discussed what causes eye strain. This week we want to explore the symptoms of eye strain so you can identify them and start treating any symptom you may already have. Remember that the worst strain is the one you don’t know about; so check the symptoms below and discover if you fall under any of the categories.

  • Dry, Itchy, burning Red Eyes

  • Blurred Vision

  • Headaches

  • Neck/Shoulder Tension

  • Sore and Tired Eyes

If you feel any signs of eyestrain then it can help to understand where the strain came from so you can treat or better yet prevent eyestrain from occurring. To help you with this we have discussed each symptom in greater detail below.

Eye Strain Symptom 1: Dry, Itchy, burning Red Eyes


When we spend long periods of time using our eyes for near work or for concentrating on a particular task our blink rate is one quarter of what it should be. Under these stresses we tend to blink only 5 times a minute. This then becomes an important factor in eyestrain because it is blinking that lubricates the eyes and keeps them moist.

After enough time of reduced blinking the eyes begin to feel dry and itchy. Rub them or leave the eyes this way long enough and you will start feeling a burning sensation and finally your eyes become red.

Eye Strain Symptom 2: Blurred Vision

Try and stand on one leg for longer than 30 minutes. This is a good analogy for eye strain and why your eyes might become blurry. In and around the eye we have muscles that are very similar to those in your legs. These muscles allow us to maintain clear focus.

After standing on one leg for 30 minutes you would need to rest your legs. However, now imagine someone telling you to keep standing. With your legs already tired you would work even harder to try and stay in that position. Certainly some wobbling will take place and eventually you will fall over.

The same is true of the muscles in our eyes. They can no longer hold focus without a rest and you will notice the blurred vision (our eyes’  wobbling) as a symptom of the eyestrain you just created.

Eye Strain Symptom 3: Sore and Tired Eyes

When looking at both symptoms 1 and 2 above it is easy to see how it wouldn’t take too long for dry eyes to progress into visual fatigue from overuse which then can lead to sore and tired eyes.

Eye Strain Symptom 4: Headaches

When the eyes become fatigued we tend to squint. We use our facial muscles to make up for the loss of our eyes’  focusing ability. This combination of tight tired facical muscles and fatigued eyes muscles can make headaches another common symptom of eye strain.

Another cause of headaches can come from clenching the jaw when focusing for long periods of time. This creates tension in the jaw and in the the two temporal muscles in the head leading to headaches.

Eye Strain Symptom 5: Neck/Shoulder Tension

When concentrate, looking forwards for long periods of time, we overuse and over recruit muscles in the neck and shoulders. Over time this leads to muscle tension in the neck and shoulders which then leads to reduced blood flow to the head.

Eye Strain Symptoms Summary

Knowing the signs of eye strain we make it much easier to identify what could be making our  eyestrain worse. Only then can we start to look at how to treat and overcome eyestrain through changing our visual habits and through eye exercises.

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  • Karen

    Thanks for the great 5 day retreat!

    • Envision Admin

      It was great working with you here in San Francisco! Be sure to let us know how the program is coming on! 🙂

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