Asthenopia (eye strain): Causes, symptoms, and treatment

Asthenopia is a very broad and poorly defined concept pertaining to limited vision. It does not refer to a decline in visual function but instead encompasses all of the disorders and problems that arise in relation to looking at objects up close. This includes blurred vision, sporadic double vision, premature tiredness, and the inability to maintain a consistently clear image at a distance, leading to headaches and other eye related pain.

The term eye strain is often used and generally means that the eyes are tired from intense use. This is not a symptom of disease. Rather, eye fatigue can be brought on by prolonged staring at a book, a computer screen, or even at the road while driving.

Causes and symptoms of eye strain (asthenopia)


Visual tasks that require increased amounts of concentration such as reading fine print or seeing in the dark leads the muscles of the eye to clench and overexert themselves. This may also involve the muscles of the eyelids, face, temples, and jaw as well. Overexertion can lead to the development of pain and discomfort of those muscles. Problems with asthenopia or eyestrain may be unavoidable, as long hours of eye use may be required for our job.

Light is a very common precipitant of eye strain, such as in the case of staring at a computer monitor for long hours in a very dimly lit room. Given the fact that many people tend to blink less when doing computer tasks, the problem of eye strain is often compounded by eye dryness and the symptoms of dry eyes.

Defects of the eyes themselves—such as refractive errors requiring corrective lenses or the inability to make both eyes work together in a binocular fashion—may also produce symptoms of eye strain.

The symptoms of asthenopia (eye strain) may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Eye pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Headaches
  • Burning
  • Watery eyes
  • Dry eyes
  • Sore neck
  • Photophobia—a sensitivity to light

Asthenopia (eye strain) treatment and home remedies

Eye strain is a very common and prevalent issue, as most occupations require constant computer use. The popularity of smartphones, which have bright screens, have also contributed to this problem. Having eye strain can be very discomforting, with only the removal of the offending cause providing relief. The following are actions you can take to help relieve eye strain:

  • Eye massage: Gentle massage can help promote blood circulation to the eyes and help relax eye muscles. This can be achieved by massaging your eyelids and the muscles above the eyebrows for about 20 seconds, then moving to the lower eyelid area against the lower bone for another 20 seconds. Doing this once or twice a day may provide some relief.
  • Palming: Start by rubbing both hands together to generate some heat. Once warm enough place both palms over the eyes and let them rest there for about 30 seconds without applying additional pressure. This can be repeated as many times as necessary.
  • Sunning: The sun is a source of great energy, and it can be used to help eye strain. By standing in direct sunlight with eyelids closed, you can relieve your eye strain. This is best achieved in the early morning. It is important not to look directly at the sun, however.
  • Eye exercises: These can help improve blood flow to the eyes as well as strengthen them to be better at focusing and concentration. Focusing exercises, like looking at a distant object then bringing it back into focus, is a good exercise. Also, rolling your eyes in alternating clockwise and counter-clockwise directions help stretch the eye muscles.
  • Cold water: Splashing cold water on the eyes can relieve mild eye strain, improve blood circulation, and relax tired eyes. It can also reduce the appearance of eye swelling and puffiness.
  • Warm compress: Heat is also a good remedy for relieving tired eyes, helping reduce pain and swelling. This is best achieved by soaking a cloth in warm water then wringing out the excess. Then, just place the moist cloth on the eyes.
  • Chamomile tea: Using the used tea bags of this particular kind of tea can help soothe and relax eye muscles as well as reduce swelling. This is best achieved by placing used tea bags in the fridge and placing them on the eyelids when they are cool.
  • Rose water: Considered a natural relaxer for tired eyes, it can also rejuvenate the skin around the eyes, reducing dark circles and eye puffiness. This can be done by using a small amount on cotton balls and placing them on the eyes twice daily.
  • Cucumber: Having natural astringent properties, this helps soothe tired eye muscles and can even reduce puffiness and dark circles. Slicing a medium sized cucumber and placing them on the eyes once or twice a day can provide relief.
  • Whole milk: Can be effective in reducing eye irritation and puffiness. This can be done by dipping cotton balls into cold milk and placing them on the eyes.
  • Create a soothing eye mask: Use a small towel and run it through some cold water, and be sure to wring out any excess liquid. This can be placed on the eyes for instant relief. Also, the use of ice bags or tea bags in conjunction may provide additional relief from eye strain.
  • Change your lighting: By turning off excess light, your eyes will have to work less to adjust to the increased brightness. Too much light can overstimulate the eyes, leading to eye strain.
  • Adjust your monitor’s glare, brightness, and contrast: Turn down the brightness to match the lighting in the room.
  • Adjust the color on your monitor: Also called adjusting the color temperature, this feature can be commonly found on most computers and smartphones and involves changing the amount of blue light displayed, which has been known to lead to eye strain and sleep disturbances.
  • Strengthen your eyelids: Close your eyes halfway down, paying attention to the constant trembling of your upper eyelid—this is essentially squinting.
  • Relax and breathe: Close your eyes and breath slowly. This will help increase oxygen delivery to your cells and give you a much-needed break from visual stimulation.
  • Cover your eyes: Prevent light from reaching your eyes.
  • Blink often: Keeping your eyes consistently lubricated can help avoid the symptoms of irritation and dry eyes.

Author Bio

Devon Andre has been involved in the health and dietary supplement industry for a number of years. Devon has written extensively for Bel Marra Health. He has a Bachelor of Forensic Science from the University of Windsor, and went on to complete a Juris Doctor from the University of Pittsburgh. Devon is keenly aware of trends and new developments in the area of health and wellness. He embraces an active lifestyle combining diet, exercise and healthy choices. By working to inform readers of the options available to them, he hopes to improve their health and quality of life.