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Asthenopia is characterized by blurry vision and eye strain. People who spend a lot of time looking at screens, whether it's a phone or a computer monitor, often experience this condition. Eyes becoming blurry after looking at a phone or feeling fatigue from prolonged use of digital devices are common complaints. Understanding these symptoms is crucial so you can take the right steps if you experience them.

Why do our eyes feel tired after looking at screens for a long time?

After extended periods spent staring at digital screens, you might find that your vision becomes blurry after looking at your phone or other devices. Our eyes must work hard to converge, focus, and track the content we're reading. Over time, this process can tire out not only the physical muscles in the eyes but also the neurons that process visual information.

What causes blurred vision (asthenopia)?

You eyes may start to see blurry, after using the computer or using the phone for a long time. There are usually two reasons for this.

Dry eye: If your eyes are blurry when looking at a screen, it's often due to dry eye syndrome. When we are looking at screens, our eyes blink less, and our blink rate drops. Blinking fully and frequently is a vital process that replenishes our tear film. So when we’re blinking less, our eyes are less moist, and when our eyes are less moist, and they don't have a robust tear layer, then they can see blurry. Learn more about dry eye.

Eye teaming: Another reason you might find your vision blurry after looking at a phone is a disturbance in how your eyes work together, known as binocular vision issues.  Studies estimate that 25% of the population has convergence insufficiency, where our two eyes are not able to work together when focusing on an object at near, the primary complaint is blurred vision or double vision. The first symptom of a binocular vision system that is not working properly is blurry vision. So if you are having blurry vision while you're on the computer or on the phone or reading for a long time, it's a good idea to get checked out by a behavioral optometrist to find out why you're experiencing that symptom.

What are the symptoms of blurry vision?

Asthenopia or blurry vision causes several other symptoms in addition to fatigue caused by eye strain. Some of these include:

  • Burning or itching eyes
  • Squinting
  • Dry eyes
  • Headaches, especially around the eyes and forehead
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Eye twitches
  • Photophobia
  • Difficulty concentrating

How is blurry vision treated?

Treatment for blurry vision varies based on its cause. For instance, if blurry vision from a computer screen is diagnosed as dry eye, your optometrist may recommend a dry eye therapy regimen. If the cause is binocular vision issues then vision therapy will be the most effective treatment.

Other tips include:

  • By simply giving your eyes a rest and taking care of them, your eye strain can be minimized and alleviated. We suggest the 20-20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and look at a distance of 20 feet. Then firmly blink for 20 final seconds.
  • Additionally, you could try adjusting the brightness of your computer or phone screens, or adjusting the lighting in your room to prevent blurry vision.
  • Eye strain can be mitigated by wearing the appropriate corrective lenses if it is being caused by something like farsightedness or nearsightedness. If you suffer from asthenopia due to dry eye, treating that condition should alleviate your eye strain.

Learn more about treatment options for blurred vision.

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