Why Do My Eyes Feel Tired? Learn more about the causes of eye strain

You’re squinting at the computer screen when you begin to feel pain behind your eyes. After a few seconds, you have trouble focusing, and your head begins to ache.

You most likely have eye strain — an increasingly common problem in our digital world.

Eye strain is rarely serious. But if you find yourself experiencing it often, talk to your doctor.

Visit the UPMC Vision Institute website. 

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What Is Eye Strain?

Tasks that require you to use your eyes for long periods — such as driving, reading small text, or typing at a computer — can cause eye strain.

Eye strain, however, is not a specific condition; instead, it is the result of different signs that indicate your eye muscles and nerves need a break. Once you can rest your eyes, the symptoms of eye strain usually go away.

Symptoms of eye strain can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain behind your eyes
  • Headache
  • Difficulty focusing
  • A burning sensation or dry eye

Common Causes of Eye Strain

Any activity that requires heavy use of your eyes and focus can cause eye strain.

As smartphones and computers have become part of our daily lives, more and more people experience eye strain on a regular basis. Some eye doctors have even labeled this particular cause of eye strain “computer vision syndrome.”

Other common causes of eye strain include:

  • Improper or insufficient lighting
  • Reading for an extended period
  • Glare from a digital screen
  • Heightened stress
  • An undiagnosed eye condition
  • Spending time outdoors without proper eye protection

RELATED: Health Benefits of Standing Desks

What to Do for Eye Strain

You can take steps to reduce strain on your eyes — even if you spend your days working in front of a computer screen.

First, give your eyes a break. After 20 minutes or so, look away from your computer, phone, or tablet. Then close your eyes for 20 seconds. This allows your eyes to recover. If you spend hours staring at a computer screen, turn down the brightness level to reduce glare.

If your eyes are dry, moisturize them with eye drops or use a humidifier in your work space. Most importantly, limit the amount of time you spend staring at your phone, tablet, computer, and other digital devices.

When Is Eye Strain Serious?

In some cases, eye strain can indicate an undiagnosed condition. Talk to your doctor if symptoms do not go away after simply resting your eyes.

You may have uncorrected vision or astigmatism, which can worsen without treatment. Uncorrected vision, such as nearsightedness, can be treated with contact lenses or glasses. Ask your doctor for more information.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About UPMC Vision Institute

The UPMC Vision Institute is a national leader in the treatment of eye diseases and disorders. We seek to improve and restore your vision to help your quality of life, diagnosing and treating a wide range of conditions in both children and adults. Our treatments include both surgical and nonsurgical options. We also offer routine eye screenings and have full-scale optical shops. Find an eye expert close to you.