Your eyes feel worn out and sore. But do you have eye fatigue, eye strain, or tired eyes? In this post, we’ll help you find out.
All three eye conditions come with overlapping symptoms. The most common being tired and dry eyes. As if that wasn’t bad enough, one condition can also cause the other.
That means that if too much screen time is overtaxing your eyes, your eye strain could lead to tired eyes. In fact, you might have eye fatigue, eye strain, or tired eyes simultaneously.
But let’s not brood over the rough bits. All these conditions are fairly manageable. What’s more, the subtle differences in each help dictate their treatment methods.
Read on to find out how these conditions differ.
Meaning of Eye Fatigue, Eye Strain & Tired Eyes
The three terms eye fatigue, eye strain, and tired eyes are often used interchangeably. But they each mean different conditions caused by different factors.
What Is Eye Fatigue?
Do you feel a sense of general eye discomfort after extended visual activities? That’s eye fatigue for you. Blame scrolling on your smartphone and reading in low light for this condition.
Also known as asthenopia, eye fatigue is sometimes related to an underlying vision problem. In other words, farsightedness or astigmatism can also make your eyes feel fatigued.
But it isn’t anything to worry about. Eye fatigue goes away once you rest your eyes. To deal with eye fatigue, you can also take visual breaks during work, adjust your lighting, and fix any refractive error.
What Is Eye Strain?
Eye strain is known by several names, such as digital eye strain and computer vision syndrome. That’s because the culprit is prolonged or intense use of digital screens.
So, when you sit in front of the computer for hours, you are most likely to have signs of eye strain. The condition is so common that 50% or more computer users have at least one symptom of digital eye strain.
And it’s not just your eyes that bear the brunt. Digital eye strain can cause tension headaches as well as neck and shoulder pain.
What Are Tired Eyes?
While similar to eye fatigue and eye strain, tired eyes are often a subset of the two conditions. It’s when your eyes feel heavy, mostly due to intense visual activity or lack of sleep.
Sometimes, dehydration may also cause your eyes to feel tired. That’s mostly because your eyes need water to produce tears and keep dryness and discomfort at bay.
What’s more, when you have tired eyes, you will experience the sensation of fatigue in and around your eyes. Your skin will likely show signs of tiredness too, such as dark circles under your eyes.
Symptoms of Eye Fatigue, Eye Strain & Tired Eyes
When it comes to eye fatigue, eye strain, and tired eyes, there are several overlapping symptoms. For instance, you will most likely have tired, dry, and sore eyes in each.
But there are also some differences that can help you figure out what you’re suffering from.
Eye Fatigue Symptoms
Eye fatigue comes with general discomfort in and around your eyes. But the eye discomfort, as well as the other symptoms, are usually temporary.
- General eye discomfort
- Heaviness or soreness in the eye
- Dryness or irritation
- Temporary blurred vision
- Red or bloodshot appearance
- Sensation of heaviness in the eyelids
Eye Strain Symptoms
Digital eye strain comes with a more specific type of eye discomfort, triggered by excessive screen time. It’s also accompanied by headaches and back pain.
- Eye discomfort and soreness
- Headaches, often around the temples or forehead
- Blurred or double vision
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Difficulty concentrating
- Neck, shoulder, or back pain
Tired Eyes Symptoms
Since tired eyes is a subset of fatigued and strained eyes, its symptoms will be similar to the above. But you will also experience a pronounced feeling of heaviness in your eyes, unlike in the previous two.
- Feeling of fatigue or heaviness in the eyes
- Eyelids that feel droopy or weighted
- Eye redness
- Dryness or gritty sensation in the eyes
- Blurred vision
- Light sensitivity
- Eye twitches or spasms
Causes of Eye Fatigue, Eye Strain & Tired Eyes
All three conditions—eye fatigue, eye strain, and tired eyes—have interconnected causes. For instance, spending long hours on digital devices won’t help either.
At the same time, there are specific factors that contribute to each condition. Let’s see what they are.
Eye Fatigue Causes
The first and foremost cause of eye fatigue is prolonged visual activity. Anything from reading in poor lighting to excessive screen time and driving long distances at night can induce signs of eye fatigue.
That’s when you’re overworking your eye muscles and causing them to tire quickly. Other contributing factors include dry air, irritants, allergens, poor lighting, and glare.
Eye fatigue is also related to uncorrected vision problems. Farsightedness and astigmatism can make you squint all the time and tire your eyes.
Tip: If you're experiencing eye fatigue, check our post on How to Know If You Need Glasses.
Eye Strain Causes
Digital eye strain, or simply eye strain, is caused by overuse of digital devices. Because slouching in front of a computer all day is as bad as it sounds.
To begin with, too much screen time can make your eyes feel drained. Add to that poor lighting, an awkward posture, bad viewing angle, glare, and blue light. What you have is a bad mix that affects not only your eye health but also your physical health.
In most cases, eye strain occurs when intense visual tasks weary your eyes. Plus, lack of eye breaks in between only worsens screen fatigue.
Tired Eyes Causes
Causes of tired eyes are closely linked with eye fatigue and digital eye strain. That means prolonged visual activity and excessive screen time are two of its major causes.
But did you know, poor sleep can also cause your eyes to feel tired? When you don’t get enough restful sleep at night, your eye will feel dry and heavy the morning after. You may also have occasional twitches and spasms as signs of tired eyes.
Apart from lack of sleep, dehydration can also cause a sense of eye tiredness. It will affect your tear production and leave your eyes feeling heavy and tired.
Treatment of Eye Fatigue, Eye Strain & Tired Eyes
Again, the treatment methods for eye fatigue, eye strain, and tired eyes are similar. It goes without saying that resting your eyes will make a world of difference.
Applying a warm compress, practicing eyelid hygiene, and keeping an active lifestyle will relieve the symptoms too. With that in mind, here are some unique remedies for each.
Eye Fatigue Treatment
Eye fatigue comes easily when you don’t rest your eyes enough. But it goes away just as easily and is fairly treatable. Here are some effective remedies for eye fatigue:
- Avoid intense visual activities – If you’re reading small print or scrolling mindlessly through social media, stop. For the sake of your eyes, avoid activities that demand visual effort.
- Exercise your eyes – Eye exercises are an effective remedy when your eyes feel fatigued. They will work your eye muscles and relieve tension and soreness.
- Fix any refractive errors – Underlying vision problems, like farsightedness and astigmatism can fatigue your eye muscles. Fix those problems to combat eye fatigue.
Eye Strain Treatment
If digital screen overuse is causing eye strain, then cutting back on your screen time can relieve it too. Here’s how:
- Take visual breaks – Make sure to blink frequently and consciously every few minutes while working on the computer. This will rest your eyes enough to relieve any strain.
- Use proper lighting – Ensure adequate and suitable lighting before sitting in front of the computer. Avoid excessively bright or dim lighting conditions that can strain your eyes.
- Adjust screen settings – Optimize the brightness, contrast, and font size of your digital devices for effective eye strain relief. Also, cut any glare and use a blue light filter.
- Practice good ergonomics – Proper posture and positioning are important while using digital devices. Position your screen at eye level and maintain a comfortable distance from the screen.
Tip: You may also want to check our post on 11 Ways to Reduce Screen Time.
Tired Eyes Treatment
While you can practice the remedies already shared, like taking visual breaks and exercising your eyes, to manage tired eyes here are some bonus remedies:
- Sleep well – Heavy and exhausted eyes are a common symptom of inadequate sleep. It’s important you get at least eight hours of rest to counter tired looking eyes in the morning.
- Drink plenty of water – Your tears are made partially of water. Drinking plenty of water is another tired eyes remedy. It will boost the quantity of your tears and prevent tired eyes caused by dryness.
- Try tea bags – Not to make a hot cuppa, but to soothe your tired eyes. After you’ve brewed chamomile or hibiscus tea, freeze the bags. Then apply them to your eyes to reduce tired eye symptoms. The skin around your eyes will benefit from this too. Learn more about using herbal tea bags for your eyes.
In the end, living in the digital age can be taxing for your eyes. Eating enough nutrients for your eyes can be challenging.
Supporting your overall eye health with an eye health supplement can help keep your eyes happy.
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In a Nutshell
Eye fatigue, eye strain, and tired eyes may sound similar. You have the general image of your eyes feeling worn out and drained. But they are different eye conditions with overlapping symptoms and causes.
While eye fatigue is a general eye discomfort, eye strain is a more specific term for eye discomfort due to digital devices. Tired eyes lie somewhere in between the two.
Keep these in mind and you wouldn’t use the terms interchangeably, not even by mistake.