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Eye Fatigue

Eye fatigue or eye strain is a common and annoying condition. The symptoms include tired, itching, and burning eyes.

Eye fatigue is rarely a serious condition. Common sense precautions at home, work, and outdoors may help prevent or reduce eye fatigue.

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But sometimes eye fatigue is a sign of an underlying condition that may need medical treatment. If eye fatigue persists despite taking simple precautions, see your doctor. This is especially important if your eye fatigue is associated with headaches or with eye problems such as:

  • discomfort
  • double vision
  • significant change in vision

Causes of Eye Fatigue

Any activity that requires intense use of the eyes -- such as extended amounts of driving or reading -- can cause eye fatigue. These include extended periods of:

  • reading
  • writing
  • driving

Exposure to bright light or straining to see in dim light can also cause eye fatigue.

One of the most common causes of eye fatigue is staring for long periods at digital devices such as:

  • computer screens
  • smartphones
  • video games

This type of eye fatigue or eye strain is sometimes known as computer vision syndrome. It affects about 50%-90% of computer workers. Some estimates say computer-related eye symptoms may be responsible for up to 10 million primary care eye examinations each year.

The problem is expected to grow as more people use smartphones and other hand-held digital devices. Research shows that people hold digital devices closer to their eyes than they hold books and newspapers. That forces their eyes to work harder than usual as they strain to focus on tiny font sizes.

Digital devices may also be linked to eye fatigue because of a tendency to blink less often when staring at a computer screen. People usually blink about 18 times a minute. This naturally refreshes the eyes. But studies suggest that people only blink about half as often while using a computer or other digital device. This can result in dry, tired, itching, and burning eyes.

Symptoms of Eye Fatigue

Eye fatigue is associated with uncomfortable and annoying symptoms, such as:

  • Sore or irritated eyes
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Dry or watery eyes
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Pain in the neck, shoulders, or back

These symptoms can decrease your productivity. They may be intensified by sleep deprivation. During sleep, the eyes are replenished with essential nutrients. Lack of sleep may result in persistent eye irritation.

Prevention of Eye Fatigue

Usually eye fatigue can be prevented or reduced by making simple changes in your work habits or environment.

Here are some prevention tips from organizations such as Prevent Blindness, the National Eye Institute, and Get Eye Smart:

Make changes to your computer screen, such as:

  • Place the screen 20-26 inches away from your eyes and a little below eye level.
  • Regularly clean off dust and fingerprints from the screen. Smudges on the screen can reduce contrast and increase problems with glare and reflections.
  • Choose screens that tilt and swivel.
  • Consider using a glare filter over your screen.

WebMD Medical Reference

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