What causes eye strain headaches, and how do you cure them?

Staring at a computer screen for long periods of time can cause eye strain headaches.
Eye strain headaches are often the result of long hours of screen time. Credit: Fotosearch
Photo credit: Shutterstock

What you need to know:

  • Staring at a screen for extended periods, or engaging in long-distance driving can induce eye strain headaches.
  • If resting does not alleviate the pain, you should see a doctor.
  • Take regular breaks from your screen and do some eye exercises to help you avoid getting eye strain headaches in the first place.

Do you often experience headaches after extended periods of working on the computer? If so, you are not alone. Many people suffer from eye strain headaches, which can be very painful and debilitating.

Eye strain is a condition that may occur when your eyes get tired from intense use, from activities such as long drives or staring at a screen for extended periods of time.

When your eyes become strained, they start to feel dry, itchy, and irritated. You may also experience blurred vision and neck pain. While eye strain is usually not severe, it can be extremely irritating.

Identifying eye strain headaches

There are various eye strain headaches, including cluster, migraine, and tension headaches.

Tension headaches are mild and often associated with stress, among other causes. They can feel like a band of pain around the forehead and temples.

Migraine headaches are more severe and can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light.

Cluster headaches can be excruciating. They are often experienced on one side of the head.

There are a few key things to look for when it comes to eye strain headaches.

  • The pain worsens after long periods of staring at a screen or working on the computer.
  • One is relieved of the headache after they rest.
  • The pain is also usually centralised around the temples.

If you experience these symptoms, you are likely suffering from an eye strain headache.

Symptoms associated with eye strain headaches

The most common symptom of eye strain is a dull ache behind your eyes. You may also experience:

  • Tired eyes
  • Increased light sensitivity
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry eyes
  • Watery eyes

If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible.

Causes of eye strain headaches

The headache is mainly caused by strain to the eye muscles. Several different factors can trigger this.

  • One common cause is simply spending too much time looking at screens, whether it be computers, tablets, smartphones, or television. Poor posture or sitting too close to a screen can also contribute. In addition, the blue light emitted by these devices can cause eye fatigue, leading to headaches.
  • Long-distance driving can also lead to eye strain headaches. This is because your eyes are constantly focused on the same point in the distance, which can cause them to become tired and strained.
  • Another possible cause of eye strain headache is poor lighting. If your workspace is not well lit, you may be squinting to see, which can lead to tension headaches.
  • An underlying eye condition, such as astigmatism, can also contribute to eye strain headaches.
  • If you are not wearing the correct eyeglass prescription, your eyes will have to work harder to focus, which can lead to fatigue and pain.

Effective remedies

If you are suffering from eye strain headaches, you can do a few things to help alleviate the pain.

  • Take breaks often to rest your eyes. Every 20 minutes, look away from your screen for at least 20 seconds.
  • Adjust the lighting in your workspace. If possible, try to get more natural light. If not, make sure the light is not too harsh or dim.
  • Ensure you have the correct eye wear. If you need glasses, make sure to get them. If you already wear glasses, make sure they are a valid prescription. If you wear contact lenses, handle them with care.
  • Apply a cold compress. This can help to ease the pain and tension around your eyes. You can also splash cold water on your face or take a cold shower.
  • Try to blink more often. People tend to blink less when staring at screens, which can lead to dry eyes. Therefore, it is important to make a conscious effort to blink more often.
  • Do some eye exercises. There are various exercises you can do to help relieve eye strain. An example of eye exercise is rolling your eyes in clockwise and anticlockwise directions. You can try moving them for approximately three or five times an hour. However, this may not work for people with underlying eye conditions.


Lifestyle changes can combat eye strain headaches. These may include taking breaks from staring at screens often, adjusting the lighting in your workspace, and ensuring you have the correct eye wear. Eyes, like other body organs that overwork daily, need proper care to ensure they work effectively. Should your eye strain headache persist, consider visiting an ophthalmologist for further assessment and advice.


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