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How Long Does Eye Strain Last?

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A man suffering from eye strain removes his glasses to rub his eyes.

Eye strain is a common problem that affects many people, especially those who spend long hours in front of a screen. It occurs when your eyes get tired from intense use, resulting in symptoms like headaches, blurred vision, and dry eyes.

The duration of eye strain can vary greatly depending on the underlying causes and individual factors. In most cases, it is only temporary and can be relieved with rest and simple self-care measures. However, some cases may require an eye exam and other forms of treatment.

Causes of Eye Strain

Here are some factors that can affect the duration of eye strain:

  • Digital device use: With the rise of technology, more people are spending extended periods staring at digital screens, which can lead to eye strain.
  • Poor lighting: Insufficient lighting, glare, or harsh lighting can increase eye strain.
  • Uncorrected vision problems: Uncorrected vision problems like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism can cause eye strain.
  • Inadequate eye rest: Not taking regular breaks from screen work can lead to prolonged eye strain.
  • Stress and fatigue: Stress can cause tension in your eyes, leading to eye strain. Lack of sleep or being fatigued can also make it harder for your eyes to focus, resulting in symptoms of eye strain.

When Should You Seek Medical Attention?

If your eye strain symptoms do not go away even after taking breaks and practicing self-care measures, or if they worsen over time, that may be a sign of an underlying eye condition that requires treatment. 

Additionally, if you experience any of the following symptoms along with eye strain, you should consider booking an appointment for an eye exam:

  • Constant headaches
  • Blurry or distorted vision
  • Eye pain or discomfort
  • Sensitivity to light
A woman getting her eyes checked by an eye doctor.

Tips for Preventing & Relieving Eye Strain

Here are some simple steps you can take to prevent and relieve eye strain:

  • Take regular breaks from screen work: Follow the 20-20-20 rule—every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
  • Adjust your lighting: Ensure that your workspace is well-lit, and avoid harsh or fluorescent lighting. You can also use an anti-glare screen filter on your digital devices.
  • Blink frequently: When working on a screen, we tend to blink less, leading to dry eyes. Make a conscious effort to blink more often or use artificial tears to keep your eyes moist.
  • Practice good posture: Ensure that your screen is at arm’s length and slightly below eye level. This can prevent you from straining your neck and shoulders while looking at the screen.
  • Adjust your screen settings: Adjust the brightness, contrast, and font size on your digital devices to make them easier on your eyes.
  • Try to remember to blink: Make a conscious effort to blink regularly when working on screens, and consider using lubricating eye drops recommended by your eye doctor.
  • Limit your screen time: While it may be unavoidable to use digital devices for work or school, make an effort to limit recreational screen time and take breaks from screens throughout the day.
  • Get regular eye exams: Make sure to schedule regular eye exams to check for any underlying vision problems that could be contributing to eye strain.

Additional Tips for Eye Health

On top of the specific tips for managing eye strain, there are also general practices that can help you maintain good eye health, including the following:

  • Eat a healthy diet: A well-balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals, especially those beneficial for eye health (such as vitamins A, C, and E), can help prevent common vision problems.
  • Get regular exercise: Engaging in physical activity can improve blood flow and circulation and help manage conditions that can affect the eyes, such as diabetes.
  • Get enough sleep: Adequate rest is essential for eye health, as tiredness can cause eye strain and fatigue.
  • Avoid smoking: Smoking can increase your risk of developing various eye diseases, such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
  • Wear protective eyewear: When participating in sports or activities that could potentially cause eye injury, make sure to wear appropriate protective eyewear.
  • Practice good hygiene: Wash your hands frequently, especially before touching your eyes, to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses that can cause eye infections. This can be especially important if you wear contacts.

Discover Personalized Eye Care at St. Clair Eye Clinic

Eye strain can last from a few hours to a couple of days, depending on your screen usage and eye care habits. Implementing the measures outlined above—such as adhering to the 20-20-20 rule, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and limiting screen time—may help alleviate symptoms and prevent future instances of eye strain.At St. Clair Eye Clinic, we offer comprehensive eye exams and personalized treatment plans to address any vision problems or concerns. Our team can provide expert advice and tips on maintaining healthy eyes and preventing eye strain. Contact us today for more information and to schedule an appointment.

Written by Dr. Neel Vyas

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