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How Long Does Eye Strain Last?

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A young girl is sitting in front of her computer rubbing her irritated eyes with her both hands.

If you have dry, uncomfortable eyes after reading a book or using the computer, you may be experiencing eye strain. This condition doesn’t typically warrant a trip to the eye doctor, but it can be irritating for the rest of your day.

Eye strain doesn’t generally last for long, but it can affect your quality of life. However, you can prevent discomfort with lifestyle changes. 

What Is Eye Strain?

Eye strain occurs when your eyes become irritated or tired after focusing for long periods. Many people experience this condition after working on their computers, reading, or even driving. 

While eye strain isn’t a vision-threatening condition, it can affect your quality of life. 

Eye Strain Symptoms

Eye strain symptoms can be irritating and uncomfortable, but many people assume they’re a part of everyday life. Headaches, tired eyes, and difficulty focusing after using the computer or working on a task aren’t something you should just deal with. 

Common eye strain symptoms include:

  • Sore, tired, or burning eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Double vision
  • Headache
  • Watery eyes
  • Dry eyes
  • Sore neck, shoulders, or back
  • Light sensitivity 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Difficulty keeping your eyes open

These symptoms can be a sign of eye strain, but many of them relate to other eye conditions. An underlying condition can affect your vision, so ensure you visit a professional.

If you’re frequently experiencing these problems, book a comprehensive eye exam with your optometrist. 

A close-up of a male student rubbing her eyes due to eye strain after long hours of book reading.

What Causes Eye Strain? 

Many people assume eye strain occurs because of computer use due to the prevalence of digital eye strain. It may surprise you, but eye strain happens due to extended focusing. When the eyes don’t get a break, they become irritated and tired. 

Some potential factors that can contribute to eye strain include: 

  • Digital device use
  • Stress or fatigue
  • Dry or moving air
  • An underlying eye problem
  • Bright light & glare
  • Long periods of focus or reading

How Long Does Eye Strain Last?

On average, eye strain lasts around an hour or 2, depending on its severity. You can normally take a break from screens and close-up focusing to relieve your symptoms. Some people may need to go to sleep or close their eyes to rest them. 

If your eye strain persists for long periods, visit your optometrist for an eye exam. Your irritation may be a sign of another eye condition. 

Can You Treat Eye Strain? 

You can treat eye strain, but prevention is generally the best way to avoid discomfort. If your irritation happens when using digital devices, your optometrist may recommend specialized glasses for computer use. These lenses help reduce the risk of eye strain by making it easier to focus from close distances. 

How to Prevent Eye Strain

Eye strain can last for hours, making it harder to focus and affecting your comfort. It’s best to prevent eye strain before it happens, which you can do in several ways. 

Follow these tips to help avoid eye strain symptoms

Use the 20-20-20 Rule

One of the best ways to prevent eye strain, especially when using the computer, is the 20-20-20 rule. This rule can help you rest your eyes and avoid discomfort. 

To follow the 20-20-20 rule, take a 20-second break to look at something at least 20 feet away every 20 minutes. This short break helps your eyes readjust from focusing on a close-up task, like using a digital device. 

Optimize Your Computer Setup

If you experience frequent digital eye strain, look at your computer’s setup. How you use your monitor, screen, and overall workstation can lead to eye strain. Optimizing this space can benefit your daily comfort. 

Keep your monitor directly in front of you when using it, and have it around an arm’s distance away. Avoid direct sunlight and overhead lighting to avoid potential glare on your screen. 

When using the computer, optimize the brightness and contrast to match your room’s lighting, making it easier to see. Keep the screen free of dust and debris so your eyes don’t need to focus as hard to see clearly. 

Use Eye Drops

Eye drops can help keep your eyes hydrated, preventing dryness and relieving discomfort. Depending on your needs, you can buy eye drops from your optometrist or over-the-counter drops from a pharmacy. 

Eye drops act like your real tears, providing temporary moisture. Be careful with the kind you pick—eye drops with preservatives can irritate the eyes if used too much. Ask your optometrist for their recommendation. 

Don’t Let Eye Strain Win

Eye strain can be irritating and uncomfortable, but you can prevent it by making lifestyle and habit changes. If you’re noticing symptoms continue despite these changes, visit your optometrist. There may be an underlying problem affecting your vision. 

Contact EyeZone Nevada if you experience eye strain symptoms.  

Written by Daniel Rowan

Reno optometrist, Dr. Daniel Rowan, was raised in Western Canada and attended Norwich University in Vermont on a hockey scholarship. After obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in both biology and sports medicine, he received his Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree from the New York College of Optometry in 2001. He performed rotations in a Queens VA hospital, specializing in glaucoma care, and an outpatient eye clinic in the Bronx. Immediately after graduating, he moved to Nevada and is now considered a top Reno optometrist. He is a member of the American Optometric Association and is board-certified by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry for the treatment and management of ocular diseases.
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