What to Do About Eye Strain

  • BY Lainie Petersen

Over the past year I began to suspect that age was taking its toll on my eyes: I was holding books and magazines at arm’s length and needed to get some distance between me and my computer monitor. I knew that I was likely suffering from presbyopia, an age-related condition that makes it hard to read type and see up close.

Still, the notion of wearing bifocals and/or readers made me feel old, so I stuck my head in the sand and just kept holding my e-reader at arm’s length.

(Then the headaches started.)

(Nasty ones, too.)

(Bad enough that I was having a hard time making it through my normal workday.)

Finally I swallowed my pride, confronted the fact that I am no longer a spring chicken, and headed out to see the eye doctor.

The doctor confirmed my suspicions about my aging eyes and kindly explained that it was time for reading glasses.

(Since then, I’ve been headache-free, and feeling rather silly about delaying my eye exam.)


Causes of Eyestrain

There are several things that can trigger eyestrain and its uncomfortable symptoms. One obvious cause is vision problems. If you begin to notice eyestrain symptoms, schedule an eye exam, even if you already have glasses or contacts. It may be that your prescription needs tweaking or that your eyesight has changed.

Other causes involve stressing your eyes with long periods of reading, staring at computer/mobile device screens or trying to read in a poorly lit room.

(In fact, there is now a blanket term for physical symptoms caused by working a lot with computers: Computer Vision Syndrome, CVS for short.)

Exposure to long periods of bright light may also cause eyestrain.


What to Do

If you are suffering from the symptoms of eye strain, it’s time to get your eyes, along with the rest of you, checked out.

I’d also advise not following my bad example in waiting a long time to do so. Here’s why:

  1. The symptoms of eye strain are usually things like headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, and muscle aches. These conditions can have many causes, some of them serious.
  2. Symptoms of eye strain can be debilitating and keeps you from getting necessary work done. (At the very least, eyestrain will make you cranky.)
  3. Why suffer needlessly? In many cases, eye strain can be easily treated through a combination of eyewear and simple changes in your work habits.

Check out the details of your health care plan. You may be able to get a referral from your primary care doctor for an eye exam, or you may be able to visit an optometrist on your own. In any case, discuss your symptoms with your regular doctor so that he or she is aware of them and can ask you to come in for a check-up if s/he feels that it is warranted.



Treatment for eye strain often involves a combination of prescription eyewear, including bifocals, progressive lenses, or computer/reading glasses. Your eye doctor may have some other suggestions for you, such as taking regular breaks when reading or using a computer. S/he may also suggest changing the lighting in your work area or enlarging the type on your computer or mobile devices.

If you work with computers a lot, your eyestrain may be accompanied by muscle aches, particularly around your neck and shoulders.  To combat this,  look into getting a better desk chair and changing your posture. If this is a serious problem, consult with an occupational therapist (ask your employer) about the way you sit and get recommendations for chairs and other ergonomic devices that can make it more comfortable for you to work.