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Eye fatigue (sometimes called eye strain) is an all too common ailment for people who work on computers all day. If your eyes are aching, itchy, or burning after a long day of staring at the screen, you probably have eye fatigue, and you probably know exactly what’s causing it.

You can relieve the strain on your eyes by making sure that your computer’s monitor is roughly the same brightness as the rest of the room and by taking a break every 20 to 25 minutes to rest your eyes and shift your focus.

What if, however, you have these symptoms or a mild headache that centers around your temples, and you’ve already tried shifting focus, massaging your temples, and closing your eyes? What could be the underlying cause of your eye strain and fatigue, and how can you relieve it?

DRIVING AND SQUINTING

Do you have a long drive into work? Do you often forget to wear your sunglasses and find yourself squinting into the morning sun? By the time you get to the office, your eyes may already be seriously fatigued.

Not only can your eyes become fatigued from driving for long periods of time – the term “road hypnosis” comes to mind – but squinting makes it that much worse. When you use the muscles around your eyes to squint, whether you’re focusing on something small or trying to block out excess light, you can very quickly cause eye strain. 

Wearing sunglasses and using your car’s sun visor can help your drive to work, but you can’t change your office’s location or the position of the sun. You can, however, use some lubricating eye drops before or after your commute to help with dry eyes. You can also massage your temples for a few seconds before you get out of your car to help relax your eye muscles.

REFRACTIVE ERRORS

If you haven’t visited the eye doctor in years because you think that you have perfect or near-perfect vision, think again. If you’re doing everything else right to avoid eye strain, but you still have dry, aching eyes at the end of the day, you may have an astigmatism (refractive error) in one or both of your eyes.

A slightly abnormal curvature or anomaly in the surface of your cornea can prevent your eyes from focusing properly together. Your eye muscles will then try to overcompensate for this, and you’ll eventually get a headache and experience eye strain.

So, if you’re experiencing eye fatigue, and you haven’t been to the eye doctor in some time, make an appointment as soon as possible. You may need corrective lenses or refractive surgery (LASIK or PRK) to fix the problem.

Because eye fatigue is so uncomfortable (and even painful), it can be very difficult for you to concentrate on your work, driving, or whatever you’re trying to do at the moment. This may affect your productivity and job performance, or it may have a dangerous effect on your driving. So, if you experience eye fatigue, even if you don’t think you need glasses, go to the eye doctor for an exam.

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