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What causes eyestrain?

Eye strain can be caused by many things. Repetitive eye strain can cause problems such as headaches, neck strain, and vision changes. The main things you can do to minimize it are wearing corrective lenses if needed, ensuring appropriate lighting, minimizing contrast and glare, varying your viewing distance, and, most importantly, giving your eyes a rest by taking breaks.

To understand eyestrain, you first need to understand how the eye works. Rod and cone cells on the retina produce light-sensitive chemicals that signal the brain to adjust the eye for available light. In low light, the iris, or the colored part of the eye, relaxes, causing the pupil to become large. This lets the eye collect as much light as possible. In low light, nerve cells in the retina also adapt to focus your vision. When you read, the iris and other muscles contract to hold the focused image on the retina. Reading in low light sends mixed signals to the iris, telling it both to relax to collect light but contract to help the eye focus. Working this hard over a period of time causes the eye muscles to feel as tired as any other muscle. The result may be dry eyes, itchy or sore eyes, blurred vision, neck aches, backaches and headaches.

To prevent eyestrain, give your eyes regular breaks: Blink frequently, close them briefly, or break your concentration every 15 to 30 minutes by focusing on something across the room or out the window.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.