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How Long Does Eye Strain Typically Last?

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A teenage girl is gently rubbing her irritated eyes, experiencing eye strain as a result of extended exposure to her computer screen

Have you ever spent too long focusing on your computer and looked away to find your eyes, neck, and back are sore? If so, you might have experienced digital eye strain. This is a common condition, but how long does it last before you’re back to feeling normal?

Fortunately, digital eye strain is typically temporary. It often only lasts a few hours before you should feel back to normal. It’s important to note, though, that this depends on whether or not you give your eyes a break.

If you find yourself experiencing eye strain, you can take a break to give your eyes a chance to rest. And if you notice you experience it more often than not, you should visit your optometrist for a comprehensive eye exam.

A schoolgirl is covering her eyes to alleviate digital eye strain caused by prolonged gadget use.

What Causes Eye Strain?

Eye strain, medically known as asthenopia, is often caused by activities that require intense or prolonged focus of the eyes. This could be anything like long periods of reading, long-distance driving, or the continuous usage of digital screens without sufficient breaks. Because it’s often caused by overusing digital devices, this eye condition is often referred to as “digital eye strain” or “computer vision syndrome.

But it isn’t just devices that can cause this condition. It can occur when your eyes are exposed to anything that causes them to overwork themselves without a break, like:

  • Poor posture
  • Significant glare
  • Poor lighting in your work environment
  • Viewing your screens from an improper distance

It’s important to note that eye strain affects everybody differently, though there are select symptoms most people experience.

How Can I Tell If I Have Eye Strain?

If you think you might be experiencing eye strain, look out for any of these symptoms:

  • A feeling of soreness or fatigue in your eyes
  • Burning or irritation in the eyes
  • Feelings of dry eye
  • Blurry vision
  • Double vision
  • Headaches
  • Light sensitivity
  • Difficulty concentrating

All of these symptoms are caused by the eye muscles working continually without a break, and reduced blinking with sustained focussing.  They are a sign that you should take a break. However, these symptoms aren’t solely linked to digital eye strain—they’re also common signs there may be something wrong with your eyes.

If you begin to notice any of these symptoms, take a few minutes away from your task and give your eyes a chance to relax. However, if the symptoms persist for longer than a few hours, you should visit your optometrist for a comprehensive eye exam.

Does Eye Strain Go Away?

Eye strain isn’t usually a serious condition, and symptoms often subside after the eyes get adequate rest. Typically, soreness and irritation will go away within a few hours, assuming you give your eyes the rest they need.

However, if you continue straining your eyes after noticing these symptoms, they’ll likely be tired for much longer. If you don’t give yourself a break, these feelings can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. This makes it essential to take breaks and give your eyes a chance to recuperate to avoid these symptoms.

Tips for Reducing Eye Strain

Fortunately, there are several measures you can take to reduce these feelings from developing—or reduce their severity. These steps include:

  • Taking regular breaks when you’re doing anything that requires intense focus
  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds
  • Make sure your work area is ergonomically designed and comfortable
  • Set your screen at eye level
  • Adjust the contrast, brightness, and lighting settings in your workspace to reduce the amount of work your eyes need to do
  • Use artificial tears before and during your period of intense focus if needed

It can be particularly helpful to visit your optometrist to seek their advice on reducing feelings of digital eye strain.

When Do You Need to See an Optometrist for Eye Strain?

While eye strain usually goes away once you’ve given your eyes the time they need to rest, symptoms can sometimes last longer than expected. But remember—many of the symptoms of eye strain are linked to other eye conditions that can cause long-term problems if left unaddressed.

Book an appointment with Simcoe Optometric Clinic to determine the cause of your eye strain symptoms. We can perform a comprehensive eye exam and provide you with advice on avoiding digital eye strain!

Written by Dr. Matthew Czikk

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