Eye Strain Headache: Symptoms and Causes - GUNNAR

Eye Strain Headache: Symptoms and Causes

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a man sitting experiencing eye strain headache in front of computer

Work and school bring enough stress on their own without extra sources of annoyance and discomfort. For example, no one likes pulling weeds in the garden. Once it starts raining, you just add insult to injury. Similarly, the thing you need the least when you’re in the middle of a large project for or studying for an important class is a headache. The world we live in necessitates the use of computers in most professional and educational work. Computers, in case you hadn’t heard, cause digital eye strain (DES). One of the most obnoxious symptoms of DES, is eye strain headaches. Eye pain and headaches often go together, but in this case, they’re inseparably connected. So, if you find yourself with a headache while reading the computer, read on to learn more about how to fix that.

Digital Eye Strain

Before we get to the headaches, we have to talk a little about digital eye strain. DES is a set of symptoms caused by prolonged use of digital screens. The symptoms include dry, fatigued, blurred, and/or pained eyes, neck pain, and, of course, headaches. Recent studies suggest that anywhere between 50-90% of computer users suffer from DES symptoms. The cause, as the name implies, is digital screens. Three main factors play into DES as caused by screens:

a man experiencing digital eye strain symptoms
  1. Blue Light: Blue light, as emitted by the sun, comes in the amount to which our bodies have adjusted. Our eyes were never meant to absorb blue light directly, as produced limitlessly by artificial sources. Blue light has shorter waves than other colors in the spectrum. It thus moves quicker and can harm our vulnerable eyes. As such, the overexposure to blue light that comes with the use of screens causes our eyes discomfort. If we lived in a world without screens, the amount of blue light from the sun and other sources would likely not cause us as much grief, although the science is inconclusive on that.
  2. Flickering: LED lights produce an imperceptible flicker. This was much easier to see on older computer monitors. These days we don’t notice the flicker, but our eyes are affected by it. That imperceptible flicker causes our eyes to constantly readjust to the changing light they’re exposed to. That constant need for readjustment causes fatigue and discomfort in the eyes.
  3. Blinking: When we look at screens we tend to not only blink less, but to open our eyes wider (especially playing video games). This combination brings trouble. Less blinking dries out the eyes. Wider eyes cause greater exposure to both the flickering screen and the blue light. The symptoms caused by the other two sources grow worse when less blinking and wider eyes join in.

Eye Strain Headaches

Any glasses wearer will tell you that forgetting your specs can cause headaches. People who need prescription lenses who don’t wear them frequently have symptoms similar to DES, including headaches. Headaches come with eye strain because headaches and light appear closely linked. When your eyes constantly deal with too much damaging light and all that comes with it, your head also compensates. Unfortunately, this means your brain works overtime, and generally can’t pull it off, just as your eyes can’t. So, you end up with eye strain, and often pretty severe headaches.

a man with eye strain headache staring at the phone in bed

Now, for most people, a happy ending to this story exists. After prolonged exposure and a flare-up of DES, headache included, can generally be cured by taking a prolonged break. A couple hours away from screens and your eyes and head feel good as new. For others, the story’s ending gets more complicated. What if you can’t just stop using screens, because you need them for work or school? Several simple solutions can help, but finding more than a bandaid for the problem should be the priority. Enter blue light glasses. Some wonder “do blue light blocking glasses help migraines?” The answer might surprise you. Find out more about how blue light glasses can help you eye strain headaches. 

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