An eye strain headache is becoming more and more prevalent, especially in today’s society where we embrace the use of laptops, tablets and smartphones more than ever. So, can eye strain cause headaches? The answer is absolutely, yes!

To make matters worse, smart devices emit something known as blue light which puts us at a greater risk of developing eye strain headaches and other eye strain conditions. Especially if you use smart devices for an extended amount of time daily. However, there are precautions you can take to greatly reduce the risk of developing headaches caused by eye strain, treat eye strain after it occurs and prevent any long-term complications.

More people than ever have jobs that put them at an increased risk of developing eye strain headaches, such as being in front of a computer or laptop screen for much of the work day and driving for extended amounts of time. Due to this, more people are suffering from eye strain headaches than ever before. Most aren’t informed on the proper way to prevent and treat the early symptoms to best deal with the dilemma. If you have a good understanding of why you are getting migraines from eye strain, then you can develop a plan to best prevent them from occurring.

In this article, we will go over some preventive techniques to ensure you don’t develop eye strain headaches in the first place. However, if they do occur you will also know how to shorten the lifespan of an eye strain headache. Otherwise, the efficiency of your work will greatly suffer, and you will feel miserable while working, fail to meet critical deadlines and be in constant, nagging pain.

What Is an Eye Strain Headache?

Eye strain headaches are headaches that occur due to your eyes being fatigued from focusing on a task for extended amounts of time without taking the necessary number of breaks. Eye strain headache location may vary.

While eye strain headaches are minor and easily dealt with in most cases, they can progress into a more serious issue. For instance, constant migraines and sleep disturbances may occur, if left unrecognized and/or untreated.

Studies have suggested blue light is largely responsible for the onset of eye strain headaches. Blue light is the light emitted from smart devices, such as laptops, tablets and smartphones. With an ever-increasing number of individuals using smart devices, it is understandable that eye strain headaches have become such a large issue.  Those who require using digital devices for large amounts of time each day are the most at risk of developing eye strain headaches. Also, truck drivers, taxi drivers and anyone else who has a job that requires detailed focus for extended amounts of time are at high risk.

eye strain headache

What Causes Eye Strain Headaches?

The reason eye strain headaches are more common is because the activity that causes eye strain headaches are far more common. Therefore, if you are at higher risk of developing eye strain headaches, then you should take the necessary precautions to prevent them from occurring.

Related: Eye Strain Symptoms

To do so, it’s important to understand the causes of eye strain headaches. The following are the six most common reasons you might be suffering from eye strain headaches:

  • Spending an Extended Amounts of Time in Front of a Digital Device
  • Driving for Long Periods of Time Each Day
  • You Are Exposed to Bright Light on a Constant Basis
  • You Are Exposed to Dry Air for Extended Amounts of Time
  • Reading for Hours Without Taking Breaks Consistently
  • Failing to Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule

To have an even better understanding, let’s break down each one and examine why exactly they serve as such a common cause of eye strain headaches.

Spending an Extended Amount of Time in Front of a Digital Device

The most common cause of headaches from eye strain is focusing your vision on a digital device for extended amounts of time without giving your eyes the proper treatment and rest.

Diving further into the cause, blue light is the main factor causing you to suffer from migraine headaches and eye strain. Blue light is a high-energy form of light that comes from digital technology devices. It has been proven that blue light can cause headaches and major disruptions to one’s sleep schedule. Due to this, it’s important to constantly give your eyes the break they deserve while working in front of a digital device.

Driving for Long Periods of Time Each Day

Driving for long hours at once can also bring on an eye strain headache. While it is different in many ways than acquiring eye strain headaches via digital devices, the premise is still the same. The reason you are prone to developing headaches from eye strain while driving is because you are required to focus intently on your objective.

It is crucial to take constant breaks while driving to prevent your eyes from becoming fatigued and developing headaches from eye strain, which can cause your quality of driving to suffer and put you at higher risk of feeling miserable while on the road and potentially getting into an accident.

You Are Exposed to Bright Light on a Constant Basis

Being exposed to bright lights can also force you to strain your eyes, causing severe headaches and migraines. The most common place one is exposed to bright lights is outside in the sunlight, especially when on a surface such as concrete or water that will reflect sunlight off it.

However, you may also be exposed to bright lights while indoors. If you work at a desk for most of the day, be sure to use lamp shades on your lamps and utilize the correct form of light bulbs.

You Are Exposed to Dry Air for Extended Amounts of Time

One of the most prominent symptoms of eye strain is dry eyes. Dry eyes, in most cases, are the result of the air being dry. While performing a task where you are at high risk of developing eye strain headaches, be sure to keep your eyes lubricated.

The best way to do so is to avoid dry air in the room. In many cases, dry air is caused by fans, which allow the dry air to hit your eyes more constantly, drying them out. If you run a fan while working, be sure to keep it pointed away from you. Also, the use of a humidifier is another fantastic way to prevent the air around you from becoming dry.

Reading for Hours without Taking the Necessary Amount of Breaks

Before technology became popular and cars were invented, eye strain was still a problem. The main, old school way of developing eye strain headaches is through reading books.

Reading books in the correct manner won’t bring about headaches. But, if you fail to take the necessary number of breaks and rest your eyes, you are at risk of developing eye strain headaches.

Failing to Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule

When you neglect to sleep for a healthy amount of time each night, you don’t give your eyes the rest they so desperately need. As a result, your eyes become fatigued, dry out and become heavy, which can cause headaches.

In most cases, individuals don’t receive the proper amount of sleep because they are busy with their work and view sleep as wasting time. However, you are only limiting your productivity by not acquiring enough sleep each night.

eye strain and headache

Early Symptoms of Eye Strain Headaches

No matter the location of eye strain headaches, they tend to be a more severe symptom of eye fatigue. Before you experience eye strain headaches, you may suffer from more minor symptoms. These symptoms should serve as warning that you might be at risk of developing headaches if you don’t give your eyes the rest they need.

If you understand the early symptoms of eye strain headaches, then you will have a better understanding as to how you can prevent them from progressing into more serious complications, such as severe headaches and migraines. Here are the most common early symptoms you will experience from eye strain before suffering from eye strain headaches:

  • Dry, Sore Eyes
  • Tired Eyes
  • Blurred Vision
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Sensitivity to Light

Let’s go into more depth on each symptom so that you will have a better understanding of each one, which will inevitably allow you to notice them as soon as they start to occur.

Dry, Sore Eyes

The most common symptom you will experience from eye strain and eye fatigue is dry, sore eyes. When you focus intently on a task, which is the main reason people develop eye strain, you forget to blink as much as you should. As a result, your eyes become dry and sore, leading to a very uncomfortable feeling.

You can also develop dry eyes from being outdoors without the proper eye protection. If you work outside on a constant basis or plan to be outside for several hours for any other reason, you need to ensure your eyes receive the proper treatment – wearing UV protective sunglasses and a hat is a great way to do just that.

Tired Eyes

Tired eyes are another sign that you might be heading towards headaches caused by eye strain. They occur when you don’t take the necessary number of breaks and/or are sleep deprived.

With that said, having tired eyes is different than simply being tired. If you’ve ever felt tired while working, but when you stopped working you realized you weren’t as tired as you thought you were, then you probably have experienced tired eyes before.

Blurred Vision

When staring at a digital screen or road for large amounts of time, your vision can become blurry and disoriented. This is also the case when you work outside and your eyes are exposed to bright sunlight. When this occurs, you are very close to experiencing eye strain headaches, and you should give your eyes rest as soon as possible.

When working outside, however, be sure to distinguish the difference between blurred vision due to eye strain and blurred vision due to dehydration and body fatigue. If you work inside and you begin to suffer from mild blurred vision, it is a safe bet that it was brought on by too much bright light or not enough breaks from focusing your eyes on a specific task.

Difficulty Concentrating

Although it is less of an actual symptom and more of a warning sign, you should take a break whenever you begin to have difficulties concentrating on a specific task.

When you have difficulties concentrating, you are naturally forced to try and focus harder. This can lead to extreme eye strain and severe headaches.

Sensitivity to Light

If your eyes reach the point of exhaustion where it is difficult to look in the direction of bright light, then you are at risk of developing eye strain headaches. Since the task we are working on requires more focus when we begin to experience eye fatigue, our eyes naturally become more sensitive to light.

If you work in an environment that requires you to focus for extended amounts of time and s filled with bright lights, you should be very cautious and take the appropriate preventive techniques to ensure you avoid headaches from eye strain.

The Location of Eye Strain Headaches

To prepare you even further, let’s go over where you might experience an eye strain headache.

First, let’s establish what exactly a headache is. A headache is a pain in the head that eye strain headache locationis located above or around the eyes or ears, at the back of the head or in the upper area of the neck. Depending on the cause, headaches occur in different places. A headache in the upper area of the neck usually means your headache was brought on by stress. Pain in the upper, back part of your head usually indicates constricted or dilated blood vessels. Pain from headaches that is found in the front of your head but below the eyes is, in most cases, caused by sinuses from allergies, colds and infections. Headache from eye strain, however, will more than likely result in pain located in the front of the head near the eyes and forehead area.

Therefore, if you experience pain in the back of your head or below the eyes, you probably have another cause outside of eye strain. However, if you have pain around the eyes and forehead area, then you should take it as a strong indication that you have headaches from eye strain.

How to Prevent Eye Strain Headaches from Occurring

Now that you have a good understanding of what eye strain looks like, what causes it and a basis for what the early symptoms of eye strain are, you can take the correct precautionary measures to prevent an eye strain headache from occurring.

The way to prevent an eye strain headache is to give your eyes the rest they need. In many cases, doing so can be as simple as using a cooling mask, like this one offered for sale on Amazon for under $20! The cooling gel not only relaxes your eyes, but also, helps treat dark circles and puffiness. Plus, it can reduce itchy eyes caused by allergies.

If the problem worsens or persists, you may need to see an optometrist about possibly getting prescription eyewear, which can work wonders to prevent eye strain headaches. To prevent them from occurring, which is different form treating the symptoms of eye strain after they occur, you should try some of the following techniques while focusing on a task for an extended amount of time.

  • Blink More Frequently
  • Use a Cooling Mask Before You Go To Sleep
  • Try The 20-20-20 Rule
  • Take Breaks More Frequently

If you don’t understand how to try some of these techniques or what they even mean, then don’t worry. For your benefit, let’s go over each one individually so you have a good understanding of what exactly each one is and how it can help to prevent an eye strain headache from occurring.

Blink More Frequently

The first and most easy solution is to simply blink more often while working on an assignment. Oftentimes when consumed by a task on a digital device, we tend to forget to blink as often as we should, causing dry eyes, sore eyes and difficulty concentrating that can lead to the more serious issue of eye strain headaches.

With that said, simply because you blink more often doesn’t mean all your problems will melt away. While blinking more often may help, you will still need to do more to prevent eye strain headaches from occurring.

Use a Cooling Mask Before You Go To Sleep

Another great way to give your eyes relief and keep them feeling good and well rested is to use a cooling mask at bedtime. Cooling masks work well to prevent eye strain headaches as they provide a soothing relief to your irritated, overworked eyes.

There are several ways you can utilize a cooling mask. The first and most common way is to wear it before you fall asleep. By doing so, you will be able to fall asleep more easily after a long, hard day of work and will be able to better maintain a consistent sleep schedule, which will in return help you keep your eyes rested and free from the early symptoms of eye strain headaches. The other way is to wear it occasionally while working. Whether you use a cooling mask or not, it is important to take constant breaks to best avoid headaches from eye strain. However, wearing a cooling mask while on your break is a great way to relax and give your eyes some needed rest.

Try The 20-20-20 Rule

Let me first explain the 20-20-20 rule in case you have never heard of it. The 20-20-20 rule states that for every twenty minutes you spend staring at something, such as a digital device, the road or a mechanical issue, you should spend twenty seconds staring at an object that is twenty feet away.

When you intently focus on a task or object for an extended amount of time, especially one that is close, your eyes become exhausted. By shifting your focus every twenty minutes, however, your eyes will feel less fatigued and will receive constant rest through your time focusing on the task at hand. Therefore, by utilizing the 20-20-20 rule, you will give your eyes the rest they deserve, which will help you prevent eye strain headaches from occurring.

Take Breaks More Frequently

The most crucial technique to prevent an eye strain headache from occurring is to take an adequate number of breaks. While it can be beneficial to establish a set number of breaks beforehand, you should certainly take a break whenever you feel the early symptoms of eye strain. Early warning signs include dry, sore eyes, tired eyes, blurred vision, difficulty concentrating and sensitivity to light.

Taking frequent breaks to keep your eyes from feeling overused is the number one way to stop eye strain headaches before they occur.

Home Remedies for Eye Strain Headaches

While preventive techniques should keep eye strain headaches far away from you, they still might present themselves on occasion.

However, if you know the proper techniques to best treat an eye strain headache, you should be able to avoid going to a doctor to solve the issue. If the following four techniques do not help you get rid of your eye strain headaches within several weeks, you should seek medical advice for your condition.

While there are numerous ways to give your eyes rest, here are the four best home remedies to quickly eliminate eye strain headaches after they occur.

  • Rest
  • Use Eye Drops and Humidifiers
  • Adjust Your Screen Brightness
  • Use a Cooling Mask


The most obvious solution to eye strain headaches just happens to be the thing your body will most desire – rest. In many cases, people who suffer from an eye strain headache don’t want to rest because they have work to do and view rest as unproductive, causing their minor headache to progress into more severe headaches and migraines.

However, rest can make you more productive in the long run. When you have eye strain headaches and your eyes are overworked, you are so consumed by the pain that you are ultimately unproductive with your work. By receiving the proper necessary rest, you will be more efficient overall. Remember, be the tortoise not the hare.

Use Eye Drops and Humidifiers

Eye drops and humidifiers work wonders for keeping your eyes lubricated, which in return will help you prevent eye strain headaches from occurring.

When your eyes are exhausted and overworked, the first thing they do is dry out and become sore. If you can treat these early symptoms, then you will ultimately be able to treat eye strain headaches. Eye drops and humidifiers will allow you to do just that.

Adjust Your Screen Brightness

Since blue light from digital devices is the main cause of eye strain headaches, you can treat your eye strain headaches by limiting the amount of exposure your eyes get to blue light. The simple way to do so is to adjust your screen brightness.

In many cases, including myself I must admit, people keep their laptop or computer on the highest screen brightness setting possible. Not only is it not necessary, but it also exposes you to a higher level of blue light. Quite simply, eliminate the blue light and you may just eliminate the eye strain headache along with it.  One of the easiest ways to help eliminate blue light effects is with these blue blocker eye glasses.

Use a Cooling Mask

Last but not least, use a cooling mask. Cooling masks work wonders not only with the prevention of an eye strain headache, but also with the treatment of headaches caused by eye strain after they occur.

It’s simple, convenient and relaxing to apply a cooling mask, so you have no excuse for utilizing one to treat your eye strain headaches after they occur.

When to See a Doctor

In most cases, home remedies and proper rest can solve eye strain headaches. But, you should see a doctor if the pain does not decrease within several weeks. If the pain doesn’t go away from home treatments and rest, you may have a more severe underlying issue that needs to be addressed, such as poor vision or stress.

A physician can properly diagnose you and tell you exactly why you are experiencing eye strain headaches. If the problem is with your eyesight, the doctor will more than likely prescribe you with prescription eyewear or contact lenses, which should remedy your headaches within a couple weeks of wearing the eyeglasses.

Regardless of whether you prefer to try home remedies or see a doctor immediately, the important thing is to not neglect your headaches from eye strain. Try and find the cause and potential solutions to the problem as soon as possible. If you follow this guide and take the necessary precautions, you should be able to prevent and treat an eye strain headache before it gets the best of you!

Dr. Barry

Dr. Barry

July 19, 2018

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