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How to Help Eyestrain

Eyes | May 31, 2017 | Author: Naturopath


How to Help Eyestrain

Eyestrain, also known as asthenopia, is an eye condition which usually occurs after many hours of close work on the computer, reading or other close activities that involve tedious visual tasks. Symptoms occur because the eye is fatigued or strained. Some of these symptoms include red eyes, blurred vision, pain in or around the eyes, mild or severe headaches and sometimes double vision. Although eye strain isn’t a serious condition, it can be annoying and uncomfortable.

Why does this happen?

When concentrating on a visually intense task, the ciliary muscles tighten. The ciliary muscle is a ring of smooth muscle in the eye’s middle layer that is responsible for changing the shape of the lens to achieve accommodation. When focusing on nearby objects the ciliary muscle contracts, making the lens rounder so that it can focus on nearby objects.

eye strain2The most common reason for strained eyes is Computer Vision Syndrome, caused by using a computer for an extended period.

Other causes of strained eyes include:

  • Activities involving intense focus. This can be from looking at a digital device screen, driving, reading or doing any other activity which involves extended focus.
  • Environment. Exposure to dry air moving from a fan, air-conditioner or heater.
  • Lack of blinking. Many people will blink less than normal when performing extended visual tasks. A decrease in blinking may lead to dry eyes, which may aggravate symptoms.
  • Poor lighting. Straining to see in very dim light can cause eye strain but overexposure to extreme brightness or glare can cause this too.
  • Underlying problems. Sometimes strained eyes can be a sign of an underlying eye problem such as refractive error (uncorrected vision) or an eye muscle imbalance.

What are the symptoms

Some of the symptoms of eye strain include:

  • Eye fatigue and difficulties concentrating
  • Pain in or around the eye
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Headaches
  • Burning sensation in eyes
  • Watery or dry eyes
  • Sore neck, shoulders or back
  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia)

How to prevent eye strain

When undertaking extended visual activities, give your eyes a short break of five minutes every hour. If you’re doing computer work close your eyes for thirty seconds or look in the distance every so often. Allow your eyes to rest between reading and, if you’re driving, have more regular breaks.

Don’t forget to blink. Blinking helps to naturally lubricate and refresh the eyes. If you’re working in a dry environment, try using a humidifier to put moisture back into the air.

Make sure there is adequate lighting in the room. Dim lighting can lead to eye fatigue as the muscles have to work harder.

Have a vision check. It’s a good idea to get your eyes checked at least once a year. If there is an underlying cause, such as a need for glasses, a visit to an optometrist will get it sorted.

Natural treatment options

If eye strain is a constant battle for you and an unavoidable occupational hazard then the following natural therapies could help.


Bilberry is a well-known fruit prized for its high nutritional content and health benefits. It is a popular supplement for conditions of the eye and research from two studies has proven it successful in treating eye strain. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition Health and Ageing found that when participants took 480mg per day of bilberry extract for 8 weeks their eye fatigue reduced significantly. The participants used in the study experienced eye fatigue induced by acute video display terminals. They also had a decrease in eye pain, eye heaviness, uncomfortable sensation and foreign body sensation.


Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are the two main components of fish oil. DHA is the major polyunsaturated fatty acid found in the eye, and some research has shown it important in the prevention of macular degeneration and dry eye. EPA has been found to reduce inflammation in the eye in animal studies. New research has found these essential fatty acids are important in reducing the symptoms of eye fatigue and strain.

When combined with lutein and bilberry for 4 weeks, EPA and DHA improved eye fatigue symptoms derived from various factors. An added benefit that the researchers uncovered was that fish oil supplementation improved mood and decreased mental fatigue.


A type of carotenoid naturally found in fruits and vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, swiss chard and garden cress. Lutein is important for maintaining eye health due to its antioxidant action in the eye. Lutein selectively accumulates in the retina and is particularly dense in the macular region. 17.5 mg per day of lutein is what is recommended in individuals wanting to reduce eye fatigue.


Taurine is an amino acid that acts as an antioxidant in the body, supports neurological development and helps regulate the level of water and minerals in the body. Taurine is naturally found in meat, fish and eggs and is commonly available as a dietary supplement. Taurine is commonly found in magnesium supplements which provides further support to eye muscles by assisting relaxation and preventing muscle fatigue.

In order to evaluate the effects of taurine supplementation on visual fatigue, researchers assigned 25 male college to either a group taking 3g per day of taurine or placebo. All participants were subjected to visual fatigue by visual display terminals. The taurine group showed a significant reduction in visual fatigue by comparing data from a variety of different tests they performed.

Eye drops and sprays

Dry eyes can be a symptom of eye fatigue but can be a causative factor too. Drops, sprays, ointments or gels can alleviate dry eyes by providing lubrication –reducing irritation, fatigue, itching and some visual fluctuation.  Australia’s best online discount chemist


Kawabata F, Tsuji T. Effects of dietary supplementation with a combination of fish oil, bilberry extract, and lutein on subjective symptoms of asthenopia in humans. Biomed Res. 2011 Dec;32(6):387-93

Ozawa Y, et al. Bilberry extract supplementation for preventing eye fatigue in video display terminal workers. J Nutr Health Ageing. 2015 May;19(5):548-54

Zhang M, et al. Effects of taurine supplementation on VDT work induced visual stress. Amino Acids. 2004 Feb;26(1):59-63

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