Eye Strain

Eye strain occurs when you over-use your eye muscles. Any muscle held in one position too long will strain. When you concentrate on a task such as reading, working at the computer or watching television for any length of time; your inner eye muscles tighten up causing your eyes to get irritated, dry and uncomfortable. To give your eyes a chance to refocus, once or twice an hour, take a five-minute break from whatever you’re doing.

If you’re over age 40, eyestrain may also be a sign that you need reading glasses or have chronically dry eyes for some reason. Generally, though, eyestrain stems from overuse. So the solutions are simple. First, close your eyes. Shutting your eyes for a few minutes, or even several seconds, will refocus them and ease the strain. Second, blink a lot. Each blink soothes and moistens the eyes and eases tight eye muscles. Third, use artificial tears. Eyes tend to get dry when they’re strained and dryness can cause eyestrain. Next to blinking, artificial tears are the easiest way to remoisten your eyes and ease the strain. Avoid certain eye products like Murine and Visine; they are actually decongestants and can dry your eyes out further.

If the computer screen is causing your strain, turn up the contrast on your monitor. The words and numbers on your screen are formed by fuzzy beams of light that are much harder to read than print on a page. To minimize the strain on your eyes, set the monitor contrast knob on high. Secondly, if you can, position your computer screen so that window light doesn’t bounce off and create glare.

Finally, if you experience strain outdoors, think about wearing sunglasses year-round. The sun’s ultraviolet rays can make you squint, straining the facial muscles around your eyes. Buy yourself a good pair of sunglasses, specifically labeled as blocking out as much ultraviolet light as possible. And wear a wide-brimmed hat. The cool thing about baseball-style caps is that, along with sunglasses, their wide brims help shade your eyes, reducing glare and squinting. So if you have one, wear it bill forward.

You might want to see an eye specialist if you consistently experience any of the following:

Your eyes feel strained all the time; Your eyes are extremely sensitive to light; You don’t see as well as you used to.