In a stressful world, it's easy to dismiss the aches and pains that seem to come with daily life. However, there are some symptoms that you shouldn't ignore—including one that could be a strong indicator that you're hurting your eyes. Sure, you probably know that pain in your eyes could be a sign of eye strain, but there's another surprising symptom to look out for. Read on to find out what body pain could mean you're hurting your eyes, and for more ocular health concerns, If You Have This Issue With Your Eyes, Your Heart Disease Risk Is High.
Your headache could be a sign of eye strain.
Headaches caused by the prolonged use of smartphone screens, computer screens, and TV screens, could ultimately be due to eye strain—"a common condition that occurs when your eyes get tired from intense use," the Mayo Clinic explains. It can also be caused by reading without pausing to relax your eyes, driving long distances, having dry eyes or uncorrected vision, or simply from stress.
"Now that many people have shifted to working from home, we are spending even more time working on screens—computer screens, smartphone screens, and so on. You are not getting up and walking around the office to talk to a co-worker," Benjamin Bert, MD, an ophthalmologist in California, told Parade. "Even meetings are now virtual and on a screen. All of the added screen time does put some strain on the eyes." And for more signs something is amiss, If You Feel This at Night, You Need to Get Your Liver Checked, Doctors Say.
Eye muscles become fatigued after focusing for a long period of time.
Howard R. Krauss, MD, a neuro-ophthalmologist in California, told Parade how blinking less—which happens when you're staring at screens—ultimately affects the eye muscles. "Along with reduced blinking comes increasing break up of the tear film, which you may imagine as a protective bubble film which moisturizes and protects the eye, as well as increased evaporative moisture loss," Krauss said. "Couple that with dry indoor air, flowing across one's face, propelled by an HVAC system and the dryness may become severe, leading to tearing, burning or redness."
As Krauss noted, eye dryness is detected by the brain, which prompts three eyelid muscles—the orbicularis, procerus, and corrugator—to tighten. Anyone who continues to keep their eyes open will end up having increased dryness and muscle spasms, and that added stress on the eyes can cause a headache. And for more symptoms to pay attention to, If You Notice This on Your Nails, Get Your Thyroid Checked, Doctors Say.
Thankfully, there are ways to prevent eye strain headaches.
Despite the discomfort, experts say that eye strain doesn't have long-term consequences. Still, you shouldn't have to deal with it. In order to prevent eye strain headaches, Healthline suggests taking breaks often when using digital screens for hours—specifically "looking at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes." Other ways to avoid a headache include blinking more to keep your eyes moistened, refraining from looking at digital screens in a dark room, not keeping your contacts in for too long, and keeping your screen at least 25 inches away from your eyes, per Healthline.
Krauss advises anyone who spends a lot of time in front of a screen to wear eyeglasses and use eyedrops when needed, Parade reports. He says eyeglasses could help preserve your eye health by preventing dry air from flowing into your eyes. But if you're noticing sudden vision changes, extreme eye pain, nausea, or vomiting, you should consult your doctor for advice, Healthline warns. And for the latest health news delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Spending too long in front of your screen could also cause neck pain.
Staring at screens doesn't just cause eye strain headaches—it can also be a pain in the neck. As Krauss told Parade, "Prolonged screen time may also provoke poor posture or sustained head, neck and shoulder positions which may provoke muscle spasm neck and headaches." As for eye strain, there are plenty of other symptoms to look out for, including blurry vision, burning or itching eyes, a heightened sensitivity to light, and difficulty concentrating. And for more worrying signs, If You See This on Your Feet, You May Have Diabetes, Doctors Say.