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ESH #61 | What Causes Eye Strain?



Many of the clients we have worked with have experienced eye strain and wonder how their particular eye condition causes it. Such complaints as dry eyes, headaches and strain in the eye are common. However, more often than not the cause of eye strain is from how people use their eyes and not the eye condition itself!

Sunning eye exercise Will 3 WebOver the last few years we have even noticed a large influx of people who have perfect vision also asking us “What causes eye strain?” It appears that “eyestrain”  is becoming a condition that is both common and highly unnecessary since it can be treated and prevented.

It is easy to simply say “the computer causes eyestrain and so just use it less,” but this issue runs much deeper than that.  Before we can start to treat eye strain or even better prevent eye strain from occurring in the first place, we need to understand what the causes are.

In summary we could say eyestrain is caused by two main factors:

Two Main Causes of Eye Strain

  1. Poor visual habits throughout the day

  2. Stress and anxiety

Simply telling someone to “use their eyes better” or “don’t get stressed” does not help much for someone looking to understand eye strain, its causes and how to prevent it.  So to understand these causes better we have broken them into 5 smaller areas.

Causes of Eye Strain 1: Excessive Near Work

The eye contains muscles both inside and surrounding it. To focus on a near object we have to contract these muscles and work them so we can see clearly. Just like standing on one leg this is fine for a short period of time. However, when 30 minutes turns into an hour and an hour into several hours; it is easy to understand how excess contraction of these muscles without rest can be a one of the leading causes of eyestrain.

Causes of Eye Strain 2:  Staring

The average relaxed person should blink between 15 and 20 times a minute. However, in our modern day world we blink half this rate. Furthermore, when reading we blink half this rate again. It is easy to see how this can quickly lead to dry eyes and eyestrain.

Causes of Eye Strain 3: Adapting to Light

With our increased use of the “great indoors” we are spending an unhealthy amount of time out of the sun (a topic which is starting to be debated by the scientific and medical community). Other than the health benefits that a healthy amount of sunshine can give us, it also helps strengthen our eyes.  However, after avoiding natural sunlight for so long by being indoors most of the time and wearing sun glasses unnecessarily we weaken the eyes ability to adapt to it. Eye strain then occurs through squinting and straining in sunlight because our natural adaption to sunlight is too weak.

Causes of Eye Strain 4: Unbalanced use of both eyes

Most people have a preferred right or left arm that they function best with. It makes sense for the brain to want to use the stronger, better arm for your daily functions. As we reinforce this over time through habit it does not take long before we become totally dependent on one arm to perform most of our daily functions. Try brushing your teeth with your less dominant hand and you will quickly see what we are talking about.

The problem with this is that overtime we are overusing what is strong in us and underusing what is weak. The same can be said for the eyes. By favoring one particular eye, our “stronger eye”, we make our eyes unbalanced, leading to eyestrain.

Causes of Eye Strain 5: Overuse

Although both causes 1 and 4 of eyestrain could essentially be classified as overuse, we want to isolate this cause for two reasons. One, so the both cause 1 and 4 could be understood better and two so that we can understand how our modern day world is overusing our eyes and causing eye strain.

In the last 100 years or so we have become increasingly dependent on literacy for our survival. Whether it is writing or reading at school, typing a document for work, reading road signs to navigate or leisurely watching TV, reading a book, chatting on Skype, tweeting, liking, poking, blogging, googling or pinging, we are always using our vision and more often than not in a way that encourages eye strain.

Causes of Eye Strain Summary

So by looking at what causes eye strain in more detail it is easy to see how our daily habits are contributing to strain. You can also see how adding stress and anxiety could then exacerbate all these causes making eyestrain even worse.

By highlighting these causes we hope it makes it much easier to start to understand how to treat and prevent eyestrain for yourself. In next weeks podcast we will be looking into the symptoms of eye strain so you can identify it and work on overcoming it.

 Question of the week

In the question of the week we address an email asking if you can perform the Palming Eye Exercise with a face mask instead of using your hands.

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