An Eyestrain Headache* usually hurts in the forehead area and on both sides of the eyes. It’s caused by… *drumroll*… eye strain. And… it’s not as common as most people think. You’re more susceptible to this type of headache when one set of eye muscles is either stronger or weaker than the others, you have uncorrected vision, or you have astigmatism. If you don’t have one of these 3 pre-requisite conditions, your headache is probably a tension headache, even if you’re eyes are feeling tired and strained.
So, with that exclamation and disclaimer, let’s dive in and look at this type of headache.
What Causes an Eyestrain Headache?
It might seem obvious (and it is), but using your eyes for long stretches of time can strain them. A few of the obvious tasks that can cause eye strain are:
Spending long periods of time staring at an electronics screen, i.e. your computer, phone, and/or tablet
Reading for long stretches without a break
Spending long hours on creative projects like scrapbooking, sewing, needlepoint, or any creative activity that requires intense visual concentration
Looking though dirty glasses for extended periods.
A few of the less obvious (read: fairly rare) causes of or contributors to eye strain are:
Dry eyes** While it usually manifests as itching, burning, redness, excessive blinking and/or tearing, intermittent blurred vision, feeling like you have a speck of gravel in your eye, and /or seeing double/triple/etc. out of one eye, it can occasionally cause eyestrain headache pain.
Eye inflammation** – Can produce pain in and around the eye
Glaucoma** – The most common type of glaucoma (open angle) is painless. However, even a mild attack of angle closure glaucoma may cause pain around the eye. This type is usually triggered by going from darkness into bright light.
Various conditions of the optic nerve**
Giant cell (also called temporal) arteritis** This condition involves inflammation of the blood vessels in the eye and can cause blindness if not treated. It generally affects people over the age of 65.
Good News! You Can Prevent Some Eyestrain Headaches
If you’re prone to eyestrain headaches, there are a few things you can do to prevent them. You can:
Stay current on your eye exams and corrective eyewear prescription.
If you need glasses or contacts, wear them. Don’t let headaches be the price you pay for vanity.
If you wear glasses, keep the lenses clean. I’ve had glasses for over 40 years, I know what a PITA it is, but your eyes AND your head will thank you.
If you have a muscular imbalance between the right and left eye, follow your opthalmologist’s treatment plan for exercises or surgery.
Invest in special lenses that protect your eyes from the glare of your tech screens
If you have dry eye, keep your lubricating drops handy and use them as directed by your doctor.
When you’re engaged in a task that requires intense visual concentration, make sure to take some breaks to give your eyes a rest. Try closing them for several seconds at a time or blinking really slowly.
Finding the cause of your headaches can be difficult and time consuming, but thankfully with a little effort and self-care, you can prevent most eyestrain headaches. The ones you can’t prevent, however, can be found early if you’re getting your eyes examined regularly.