Check-Up: Why do his eyes hurt so much?

January 13, 2020

Dear readers,

Jeremy is a university student and does a lot of reading.

He emails Check Up saying that even though he wears fairly new tested glasses, he’s been having headaches and eye pain after reading for a while.

Sometimes the words on the computer screen or in the book seem to double up. He asks if this is ‘eye strain’ and what should he do to treat it.


This does sound like eye strain. Eye strain usually occurs when the person is either reading books or reading the computer screen for prolonged lengths of time.

It can also occur due to reading where there is poor lighting. Although symptoms occur due to misuse or overuse of the eyes and the eye muscles (tiredness of the eyes), usually the symptoms are temporary and can be resolved with improved room lighting and eye care.

Symptoms associated with overuse of the eyes and associated eye muscles, which move the eyeballs in the eye sockets, will include:

- Feeling of dry eyes

- Watery eyes

- Tired eyes

- Headaches

- Neck muscle tension

- Pain felt behind the eyes

- Blurring of vision

- Light sensitivity

Usually, eye strain isn’t serious and can be resolved with properly resting the eyes although, occasionally, eye strain can be caused by some underlying disorder in need of treatment.

So if eye strain persists despite resting the eyes, and it is associated with eye pain and redness of the eyes, then the eyes should be retested and examined by both an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) and regular physician.

Treatment for eye strain generally involves some changes to your lifestyle and daily habits.

It is possible to obtain prescribed eyeglasses used specifically for reading and computer use, and you can also take specified breaks form reading or computer activities to rest the eyes and their associated muscles at intervals.

To reduce or prevent eye strain, please:

- Position light source behind you when reading and direct light on to pages being read.

- Make sure that the lighting is adequate.

- Take breaks when reading. Look away from the computer screen or book page, and gaze and focus on distant objects for a minute.

- Limit session time spent on the computer. Some people experience problems with the glare.

- Use over-the-counter ‘artificial tears’ eye drops in the eyes if they are dry.

- Get your eyes tested and make sure you don’t need reading glasses, or that the ones being worn are adequate.

- Many people stare at the screen when using the computer. Ensure that you actually stop and blink your eyes at intervals.

- Taking omega-3 fatty acids has been reputed to reduce eye strain.

Jeremy, try these suggestions for a couple of weeks. They should help. If not, then please visit your doctor for a check-up.

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