In an age that embraces the advancements of digital technology, more and more people are beginning to suffer from eye strain symptoms and other forms of eye fatigue.

The rise in the amount of people suffering from eye strain can be contributed, in large part, to the increase in the number of people staring at their computer, tablets and cell phones for an extended amount of time each day. Eye strain as it pertains to the use of digital technology, also known as computer vision syndrome, can lead to long complications if not dealt with properly.

With that said, there are numerous reasons outside of technology why someone may be suffering from eye strain symptoms. In many cases, eye strain and other eye fatigue conditions can be solved by simple self-care solutions. If you suffer from more serious eye strain symptoms, however, you may need to consult a physician.

It’s important to be able to recognize the symptoms of eye strain. Otherwise, you risk the condition, which is minor if properly dealt with, progressing into more long-term complications. Including problems with your retina, chronic headaches and sleep disturbances.

When eye strain symptoms are left untreated and allowed to progress into a more chronic condition, it can alter your way of life and cause serious changes to your everyday routine. However, if you know how to properly prevent eye strain symptoms from occurring and how to treat them if they do occur, then you can prevent the constant disturbance eye strain can cause.

What Is Eye Strain?

In essence, eye strain is a condition caused by eye fatigue from intense use, such as while driving or staring at computer screens and other digital devices. In many cases, eye strain is a minor condition and should not be a cause for concern. However, if it is left untreated, eye strain symptoms can progress into more serious eye conditions, so it is important to take the proper steps necessary to deal with eye strain symptoms if they occur.

While eye strain usually isn’t serious, the symptoms of eye strain can affect your life in many ways. For those whose job requires them to be in front of a computer screen for extended periods of the day, which is an ever-increasing number, eye strain is a serious concern. Eye strain symptoms are also prevalent with those who drive for an extended amount of time without rest, including truck and taxi drivers. Whether it’s by constantly having dry, itchy eyes, blurred vision or constant headaches, the symptoms of eye strain can cause a serious inconvenience to those who rely upon focused eye sight in their daily routine.

eye strain symptoms

With that said, eye strain symptoms can be avoided even with those who are at the highest risk of the condition. While prevention and treatment can be as simple as using a cooling eye mask at night, more severe cases can require a trip to the optometrist, who might treat you with prescription eyewear, eye drops or the use of a humidifier.

If properly recognized and the correct preventive techniques are used, eye strain should not affect your everyday routine. You should be able to prevent the symptoms regardless of your profession.

What Are the Symptoms of Eye Strain?

While eye strains usually aren’t serious, the symptoms of eye strain can cause an impairment to your everyday routine and make doing menial tasks much more difficult. For many, the minor symptoms of eye strain are close to unbearable and will certainly make your life more difficult.

The most common eye strain symptoms include:

  • Dry Eyes
  • Sore Eyes
  • Tired Eyes
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Sensitivity to Light

Dry Eyes

Dry eyes is one of the most common symptoms of eye strain. As we have all probably experienced from staring at something for an extended amount of time, having dry eyes can be very annoying. While it isn’t serious, dry eyes can hinder your work efficiency and can cause you to have red eyes that aren’t all that attractive.

Sore Eyes

If you are required to strain your eyes constantly, your eyes can become very sore. Similar to having dry eyes, having sore eyes can make it hard to get your work done and lead you to want to sleep more than anything else.

Tired Eyes

Have you ever felt tired, but when you tried to fall asleep you realized you weren’t as tired as you thought you were? This could be because only your eyes are tired, and your brain is telling you to rest them. If you take the right measures, you can prevent this form of exhaustion, which is caused by having eye fatigue.

Difficulty Concentrating

Another symptom of eye strain is difficulty concentrating. When your eyes are fatigued, you can have a real hard time focusing on the task at hand, which is mainly because you are focused on your eye fatigue.

Sensitivity to Light

The more fatigued your eyes get the more sensitive they are to light. When suffering from eye strain symptoms, you may find it irritating to be in a bright room or outside, which can lead to more serious symptoms such as headaches or burning eyes.

For those who suffer from these five common symptoms of eye strain, treating your symptoms can be as easy as using a cooling eye mask. Amazon’s top selling eye mask, which you can find here, can be used to treat dark circles, relieve itchy eyes caused by allergies, and even reduce sinus headaches. However, in some cases, the symptoms can lead into more serious symptoms such as these:

  • Heavy Eyes
  • Burning Eyes
  • Blurred or Double Vision
  • Headaches
  • Sore Neck, Shoulders and Back

Heavy Eyes

When your eyes become tired and fatigued, they can start to become heavy and cause the feeling that you cannot keep your eyes open. This can significantly limit your productivity in whatever you do. Suffering from heavy eyes can become extremely dangerous while driving and can cause you to do very poor, inefficient work at your job.

Burning Eyes

Another more severe symptom of eye strain is burning eyes. Burning eyes, in many cases, is the result of leaving sore eyes untreated. With burning eyes, it can become very difficult to focus on everyday tasks and can leave you completely subdued by this more severe eye strain symptom.

Blurred or Double Vision

Blurred or double vision is a more severe symptom of eye strain. Whether you are working on an assignment on your computer, reading your favorite book or driving home from work, if you suffer from blurred or double vision, you put yourself at great risk and can hinder your ability to focus and do good work in the areas that require you to do so the most.


One of the more severe eye strain symptoms is a headache. This often occur when the more common symptoms of eye fatigue are not recognized and properly treated. Like many other eye strain symptoms, headaches can make you very unproductive and cause you to feel miserable and fatigued all day.

Sore Neck, Shoulders and/or Back

Yes, eye strain can cause stress to more than just your eyes and head. When the initial symptoms of eye strain are not properly treated, more severe eye strain symptoms such as sore neck, shoulders and back can begin to creep up. This can leave you feeling awful as you go through your everyday routine.

What Are the Causes of Eye Strain?

Eye strain symptoms are becoming more and more common due to the increased usage of digital technology. You are at a higher risk of developing eye strain symptoms if:

  • You are required to be in front of a computer screen for extended amounts of time.
  • Required to drive for long durations of the day
  • Exposed to extreme levels of light on a consistent basis

symptoms of eye strain

Since more jobs require extensive use of computers and more high school and college students are required to complete their schoolwork online, it is understandable that we are beginning to see an increase in the number of individuals suffering from eye strain symptoms. Once aware of the causes of eye strain symptoms, however, those who suffer from eye strain can begin to take the steps necessary to treat the symptoms and can even prevent them from occurring in the first place.

Here are the more common causes of eye fatigue and eye strain symptoms:

  • Staring at your computer screen, tablet or mobile device
  • Reading without pausing to rest your eyes
  • Driving long distances
  • Exposure to dry moving air
  • Failure to maintain a consistent sleep schedule
  • Stress
  • Being exposed to bright light and glare
  • Poor vision

Staring at Your Computer Screen, Tablet or Mobile Device

In today’s society, staring at a digital device is widely considered the main cause of eye strain symptoms. When someone constantly stares at a screen, they are intently focused on a task and often forget to rest their eyes an adequate amount while exposing themselves to large amounts of blue light. Although, there are many ways to give your eyes a break while in front of a digital screen. Such as, blinking more often, ensuring your screen has properly adjusted light and even maintaining good posture.  You can also invest in a pair of specialized blue blocker eyeglasses found here.

Reading Without Pausing to Rest Your Eyes

Another common cause of eye strain symptoms is reading. Like using a digital device, reading often takes our focus and causes us to not rest our eyes enough. While many resort to eye glasses to solve this issue, there are other means of preventing eye strain while reading.

Driving Long Distances

One of the worst places to experience eye strain symptoms just so happens to be one of the more prevalent places in which it is experienced. For those who drive for extended periods of time each week, it is crucial to do everything possible to prevent eye strain symptoms from occurring.

Exposure to Dry Moving Air

Since dry eyes is one of the most common symptom of eye strain, it makes sense that exposure to dry moving air is one of the more common causes. When on the computer, phone or TV for an extended amount of time, it is important to keep moisture in your eyes. Blink often and try and prevent the air from getting too dry whenever possible.

Failure to Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule

Oftentimes when your eyes are tired it’s because you are actually tired. When you fail to maintain a consistent sleep schedule and don’t receive the proper amount of sleep, you put yourself at an increased risk of suffering from annoying, chronic eye strain symptoms.


Stress oftentimes plays a major role in the cause of eye strain symptoms. Many who are struggling to meet a deadline, for example, tend to put all of the focus into their task. As a result, they neglect natural techniques that will help to prevent eye strain from occurring, including blinking, sleeping, and taking an adequate number of breaks.

Being Exposed to Bright Light and Glare

For those who work outside for long hours each day, it can be very helpful to wear sunglasses. This prevents the sun from causing eye strain symptoms such as sore eyes, blurred vision and headaches. Those who are exposed to bright light areas often are at a higher risk of eye strain and other eye fatigue conditions.

Poor Vision

If you suffer from poor vision, you will have to strain your eyes more throughout the day. Regardless of what you do throughout the day, having poor vision can cause eye strain symptoms. It can be very beneficial to see an optometrist and receive the proper eyewear.

Causes and Symptoms of Digital Eye Strain

The leading cause of eye strain is the use of digital devices with, according to Spec Lifter, over 10 million doctor visits due to the condition every year. One interesting development found through studying digital eye strain specifically is that digital eye strain has its own set of symptoms.

While many of the symptoms are the same as eye strain in general, such as blurred vision, double vision, dry, red eyes, eye irritation, headaches and neck pain, there are several symptoms that are unique to computer vision syndrome. These symptoms include sleep disturbances, tension, arm and wrist pain, increased sensitivity to light, dizziness and extreme fatigue.

So, what makes digital eye strain different than other causes of eye strain? As we have mentioned many times throughout this article, blue light plays a large role in digital eye strain. However, there are other supporting factors such as a higher level of focus and being too close to the screen. In the same manner children shouldn’t sit too close to the television, it’s important to realize the potential damage caused by sitting so close to a computer screen.

Specifically, increased sensitivity to light, dizziness and extreme fatigue seem to be the most common symptoms specific to digital eye strain. This is due to the extreme focus we put into our online tasks and, of course, our exposure to blue light. However, in more rare cases, tension and arm and wrist pain can be factors of digital eye strain.

The most important symptom to be careful of if you spend a large amount of time each day in front of a computer screen is a disruption to your ability to sleep. Due to blue light’s ability to make us more sensitive to light, it can be harder for many with digital eye strain to fall asleep after working in front of a computer screen for a long period of time. With that said, sleep disturbances can be avoided by using a cooling sleep mask and making a conscious effort not to be in front of a digital device for several hours before you go to sleep.

Symptoms of Eye Strain Specific to Drivers

The worst time to experience symptoms of eye strain is while driving. If you can recognize the symptoms as soon as they occur, however, you will be able to take the necessary precautions to prevent them from affecting your ability to drive. With that said, there are eye strain symptoms specific to drivers that need to be recognized. Since the eye strain isn’t caused from blue light or being too close to the object that you are focusing on, sensitivity to light, blurred or double vision, and dizziness are not symptoms that typically occur. Instead, drivers usually suffer symptoms of fatigue, heavy eyes and difficulty concentrating.

If you’ve ever went on a long road trip of which you were the driver, then you have probably felt fatigue while driving. Oftentimes, this fatigue isn’t because you lack sleep and need to rest. Instead, eye strain could be the main culprit. When driving, you are forced to redundantly focus on the same task for a long period of time, similarly to working on a long school or work assignment. What is unique to driving, however, is the level of constant focus needed to successfully complete the task and the potential harm caused by the symptoms of eye strain.

To avoid eye strain symptoms of fatigue, heavy eyes and difficulty concentrating from occurring while driving, be sure to take advantage of every opportunity to rest and relax your vision. For instance, if you come to a red light, don’t stare at the light waiting for it to turn green. Instead, relax your eyes, look at various different objects, or perhaps even utilize the 20-20-20 rule (see below). By doing so, you will be able to avoid eye fatigue from occurring and will be a better, more focused driver as a result.

If you do begin to experience symptoms of eye strain while driving, then you may need to take a short break. For example, if you start to feel exhausted while driving and your eyes become heavy, find the nearest rest stop, gas station or park and pull over. Go for a short five-minute walk. If you do so, you should feel more energized and focused once you resume driving.

Symptoms of Eye Strain Specific to Readers

Another main cause of eye strain, which I’m sure we have all experienced, is eye strain while reading. There are few tasks more demanding of our eye focus than reading, and the worst part, we don’t even realize we are experiencing eye fatigue. Unlike working on an assignment on a computer or driving, most of the time we are reading because we enjoy it. Therefore, we don’t take eye strain into consideration as strongly as we probably should.

Due to its differences, there are symptoms of eye strain specific to readers. In some ways, eye strain for readers is like eye strain to those who spend a lot of time on digital devices. Except, blue light is not an issue (unless you are reading on a tablet). Reading from a book requires much more focus than other tasks. Oftentimes, reading requires you to strain your eyes and focus intently on the words, especially when enthralled by what you are reading. Also, while reading, most people are usually much more hesitant to take a break – it kills the momentum, doesn’t it? However, this is exactly what is needed.

The main eye strain symptoms experienced by those who read for extended amounts of time include sore, tired eyes, blurred vision and dry eyes. Burning eyes is also a possibility while reading. To prevent these symptoms of eye strain from occurring while reading, it is important to:

  • Take frequent breaks
  • Use a brighter light source
  • Blink often
  • Try to find books with larger text

Also, reading is a fantastic time to utilize the 20-20-20 rule, which requires you to refocus your sight on an object twenty feet away for twenty seconds per every twenty minutes you spend reading. In severe cases, you may need to consult a doctor to see if you need eyewear.

what are the symptoms of eye strain

While reading can be an extremely enjoyable, relaxing task for many, it can be more of a burden once your eyes begin to become dry, sore and your vision becomes blurry. However, as long as you take the correct preventive measures, you should be able to prevent eye strain from affecting your peaceful reading experience.

How to Prevent Eye Strain Symptoms

For those, like myself, who hate going to the doctor but suffer from eye strain symptoms, you can treat your eye strain symptoms by taking the right precautions and preventive measures.

It starts with your daily habits. Those required to focus on a single task for an extended amount of time are indeed at a higher risk of developing eye strain symptoms. Luckily, there are still precautions that can be taken to minimize, if not eliminate, eye strain from affecting one’s daily routine. However, ensuring eye strain symptoms do not present themselves takes a conscious effort to prevent.

Here are a few tips to prevent eye strain from occurring:

  • 20-20-20 Rule
  • Blink More Frequently
  • Use Proper Lighting
  • Take Breaks More Frequently
  • Adjust Your Screen Resolution

20-20-20 Rule

The 20-20-20 rule states that for every 20 minutes you spend staring at something close you should spend 20 seconds staring at something else that is 20 feet away. This means if you work at a computer for most the day, you should look away every twenty minutes and give your eyes a break. While you may not want to waste twenty seconds of work in the moment, you will most certainly be more productive in the long run.

Blink More Frequently

Every time you blink you are giving your eyes a mini break away from whatever it is you are doing. Many times, when we become focused on a task we naturally blink less. By making a conscious effort to blink more frequently, however, we can greatly reduce the risk of developing eye strain symptoms.

Use Proper Lighting

Many lamps and overhead lights can cause a glare where we work. When glare occurs, it can cause us to strain our eyes more than necessary. This problem can be solved, however, by creating a perfectly lighted area at our work station. For instance, if you place a lamp on each side of your desk, you can greatly reduce glare.

Take Breaks More Frequently

When consumed by a task, taking a break can make one feel unproductive and lazy. However, without breaks your work efficiency will greatly suffer and will put yourself at high risk of developing symptoms of eye strain. If you want to avoid or eliminate eye fatigue, take more breaks.

Adjust Your Screen Resolution

Make sure to keep your computer screen on a higher resolution. By doing so, you will be able to see text and images much more clearly without having to strain your eyes. Remember, the ultimate goal is to allow our eyes to work less and receive the proper rest. By adjusting your screen resolution, your eyes will get the rest they deserve.

While these are the most recognized ways to prevent eye strain symptoms from occurring, every case is different. Therefore, you will need to find an eye strain reduction technique that works for you. One great way to do so is to create a list of your usual daily routine and try and find the root cause of your eye strain symptoms. Once recognized, you can then build a strategy to best prevent your eye strain symptoms from occurring. If none of the self-care treatments work for you, you will need to schedule an eye exam to properly diagnose your eye fatigue condition.

How to Treat Eye Strain Symptoms After They Occur

Treating eye strain symptoms after they occur can require more complex treatments. While the previous five techniques work wonders in preventing eye strains from occurring in the first place, there are times when eye strain is simply inevitable.

Once they occur, however, you may need to seek help from eye strain reduction products or possibly seek medical advice. You may require medication or prescriptive eyewear to best deal with your eye strain symptoms. If your eye strain symptoms don’t start to recede and become chronic, here are some other treatment solutions you can try:

  • Use Eye Drops
  • Use a Humidifier
  • Wear an Eye Mask
  • Take Vitamins
  • Schedule an Eye Exam

Use Eye Drops

If your eye strain symptoms don’t improve and become chronic, treating your eye strain can sometimes be as simple as using eye drops. In many cases, eye strain can worsen or fail to improve on its own due to the eyes being dry. By using eye drops regularly, you will be able to keep your eyes properly lubricated. As a result, you should see your eye strain symptoms start to improve.

Use a Humidifier

Like eye drops, humidifiers will do a good job of providing your eyes with the proper amount of moisture. The air is dry in many work environments. Using a humidifier will help to keep the air moist and, as a result, keep your eyes from drying out and becoming sore or heavy.

Wear an Eye Mask

One of the best ways to treat eye strain symptoms after they occur is to use a cooling eye mask. Eye masks work very well in both preventing and treating eye strains. After a long, hard day of work, whether it be as a writer, driver or any other task that requires focusing your eyes on a single object for an extended amount of time, you can come home and use the cooling eye mask before you go to sleep and give your eyes the soothing relief they desire.

Take Vitamins

Taking vitamins is a great way to treat eye strain symptoms. Vitamins and minerals are important for overall eye health and can help reduce the symptoms of eye strain. Vitamins A, C and E can be helpful, as well as taking Lutein and Zeaxanthin.

Schedule an Eye Exam

While it can be beneficial to schedule an eye exam once your eye strain symptoms first occur, you should certainly schedule an eye exam if your symptoms don’t improve over the course of several months. If you are someone who works in front of a computer for a good portion of time each day, consider asking your eye physician for computer specific eyewear that reduces the impact of blue light on your eyes.

The main takeaway you should have is that eye strain symptoms will not improve on their own. The only way to improve your eye strain symptoms and eliminate them from ever occurring again is to make the necessary (minor) changes to your daily routine. While it may seem like an inconvenience, eye strain can significantly decrease your efficiency throughout the day. By taking more breaks, using eye drops or possibly wearing prescription glasses, you will have much happier eyes.

Long Term Complications

In general, eye strain will not lead to long term complications. As long as eye strain is correctly recognized and properly dealt with, eye strain symptoms should begin to go away within a few weeks. If left untreated and allowed to worsen, however, eye strain can slowly progress into far more concerning eye conditions, such as problems with your retina, cataracts and sleep problems.

With an ever-increasing exposure to blue light, the side effects of blue light are important to recognize. Take the proper precautionary steps to prevent symptoms from occurring can be very beneficial, not just with one’s health but with their work efficiency as well.

While it is extremely rare, it is possible for eye strain symptoms and other causes of eye fatigue to progress into something more serious. Here are a few long-term complications that can be a result of untreated eye strain and eye fatigue conditions:

  • Retina Issues
  • Chronic Headaches
  • Sleep Disturbances

Retina Issues

If long term complications from eye strain do occur, it will more than likely affect your retina. Retina issues, such as a retinal tear, can lead to blurred or distorted vision and can make everyday life more difficult.

Chronic Headaches

When your eyes are heavy and tired, you are at risk of developing chronic headaches. Although the headaches should go away from eye strain treatment, it is highly likely you will suffer from chronic headaches if eye strain symptoms are ignored and untreated.

Sleep Disturbances

Similar to headaches, sleep disturbances should start to subside once the root cause of your eye strain symptoms are properly treated. However, with eye strain symptoms comes the possibility of sleep disturbances, which can lead to more issues than tired or sore eyes.

Although these long-term complications are rare, eye strain symptoms should be taken seriously and properly treated. If you start to experience eye strain symptoms, be sure not to ignore the symptoms. Try and find ways to prevent the symptoms from progressing and, ultimately, take the steps necessary to eliminate eye strain symptoms from your daily life. If the symptoms do progress despite self-care techniques, you will need to see an eye care physician (see below) to properly diagnose and treat your eye strain condition.

When to See a Doctor

In many cases home treatments and simple inexpensive products can be the solution for you if you are experiencing eye strain symptoms. Therefore, the first step you should take, assuming your symptoms are still mild and fairly new, is to be more careful and aware of your eye strain symptoms. At the same time, use simple remedies, such as more constant breaks, cooling eye masks and proper light adjustments.

However, if self-treatments still don’t improve your eye fatigue condition after several weeks, you should see a physician for diagnosis and treatment. While every case is different, your eye strain could be the result of poor eyesight and solved by prescription eyewear. If you work at a computer for an extended amount of time each day, your optometrist might prescribe computer eyewear. In other cases, you may need to utilize eye drops and humidifiers to help keep your eyes from drying and becoming sore.

Regardless, your eye physician should be able to tell you exactly what you need to do to treat your current eye strain symptoms and prevent them from returning in the future. Eye strain symptoms and other causes of eye fatigue can greatly affect your everyday routine, so it’s crucial to properly treat your symptoms as soon as they occur. If you do so, you should be able to eliminate the annoying symptoms of eye strain in very little time.

Dr. Barry

Dr. Barry

July 9, 2018

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