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How Long Does Eye Strain Last?

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We live in a fast-paced world, and we’re constantly surrounded by screens and digital devices.  While they can be handy for improving many parts of our lives, they can also overwork our eyes, causing fatigue and eye strain

Eye strain can be uncomfortable, but how long does it last?  Does eye strain go away on its own?

Fortunately, eye strain will go away after you stop the task that’s causing it.  If your eyes are tired, sore, or irritated when using a computer or other digital device, try turning off any nearby screens or take a longer screen break to give your eyes a rest. 

Your eyes are an important part of your life, so visit your optometrist for a comprehensive eye exam.  They can give you advice on reducing eye strain in your everyday life!

What Is Eye Strain?

Eye strain is a common condition that develops when your eyes are overworked or tired.  It most commonly occurs when you spend too long focusing intensely on something nearby—usually a screen or anything with small text.

Eye strain feels like your eyes are tired and sore, almost like they’ve been hit with something.  It can be associated with several things, such as:

  • Dry eye disease
  • Blurry vision
  • Headaches
  • Light sensitivity
  • Difficulty focusing, like your eyes are shifting between things on their own
  • Shoulder and neck pain, as prolonged focus often leads to poor posture

These symptoms can last for some time after you’ve turned off the screen, making it essential to try and avoid eye strain from developing in the first place.

What Causes Eye Strain?

Typically, spending too much time staring at a screen causes eye strain, but it isn’t the only thing that can lead to this feeling.  It can even be caused by:

  • Poor contrast or brightness settings on the computer, leading to your eyes working harder than they should.
  • Reading small text from a book, newspaper, magazine, or other written word.
  • Poor lighting in your work environment.
  • An undiagnosed refractive error like nearsightedness or farsightedness.
  • A poor ergonomic setup, causing posture problems.

Usually, eye strain isn’t caused by just one factor.  More often than not, eye strain is a combination of several of these.  This causes your eyes to be overworked and strained.

Does Eye Strain Go Away?

Fortunately, in most cases, eye strain goes away within a few hours after stopping the activity that caused it in the first place.  You can bring yourself some relief by taking frequent eye breaks. 

However, if you keep overworking your eyes, you’ll likely continue feeling the soreness and discomfort.  If you’re hesitant about going to the optometrist, you can make some changes to help reduce eye strain in your daily life.

Tips for Reducing Eye Strain

Here are some strategies you can implement to avoid eye strain: 

  • Follow the 20-20-20 Rule:  Every 20 minutes, look at something roughly 20 feet away for 20 seconds.  This break helps your eyes adjust their focus and avoid locking in on the nearby screen and can help them feel more relaxed while you work.
  • Ensure your workspace is properly lit and screen not much brighter than your general work area.
  • Position your screen around eye level at an angle that helps promote good posture.
  • Make a conscious effort to blink regularly to avoid drying out your eyes.
  • Optimize your workspace by changing contrasts and brightness settings on your screen. 

Try to take some time every day and avoid extended screen time.  These technology breaks can help reorient your eyes, giving them a much-needed break.  And don’t forget to stay hydrated!  Your eyes need water just as much as the rest of your body does.

A woman in an optical clinic shaking hands with her optometrist

Can an Optometrist Help with Eye Strain?

If you’re worried about digital eye strain, set some time aside to visit your optometrist.  They can perform a comprehensive eye exam and advise you on how to reduce eye strain, including the prescription of specially designed and treated ophthalmic lenses.  This condition can be uncomfortable and impact your daily life, so it’s always a good idea to do what you can.  To speak with a caring and experienced optometrist, schedule an appointment with us at Eye Love Optometry!


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  • Written by Park L. Hsieh, O.D.

    More Articles by Park L. Hsieh, O.D.

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