How to Relieve Eye Strain

Four Parts:Resting and Relaxing Your EyesStrengthening and Focusing Your EyesRelieving Dry EyesPreventing Eye Strain

If you've got tired, achy eyes or frequent headaches, your eyes may be strained. You might only notice tired eyes after a long day of work or at the end of the day. This may mean your eyes are straining to focus on your computer or small objects. Whatever the reason, learn to rest, strengthen, and relieve dry eyes. If symptoms don't get better or your eyes continue to get worse, see your eye doctor for a complete examination.

Part 1
Resting and Relaxing Your Eyes

  1. 1
    Create a soothing eye mask. This can revive strained eyes. Run cold sterile water over a small towel that will fit over both your eyes. Be sure to completely wring the water out of the towel, then fold or roll it lengthwise to cover your eyes. Lay down and place the towel over your eyes for two to seven minutes. You can repeat this as often as you like.
    • You can also use cold compresses (like ice) or tea bags on your eyes. Tea bags contain tannins that can help constrict vessels, relieving puffy eyes from eye strain.
    • Avoid laying cucumber slices over your eyes, since they could cause bacterial contamination.
    • If you'd like to relax even more, add a few drops of rosewater or lavender oil to the eye mask or massage them onto your eyelids before applying the mask.[1]
  2. 2
    Change your lighting. Turn off any harsh lights, extra lights, or fluorescent light bulbs. These can make your eyes work harder to adjust and long exposure to bright light will overstimulate your eyes and body. This can lead to irritability and overall fatigue. Create a comfortable lighting environment by changing your bulbs to soft/warm varieties. Use dimmer switches to adjust the level of lighting, which can then be personalized by everyone in your household.[2]
    • Natural lighting can cause a glare on the computer monitor, increasing eyestrain. Be sure to use an anti-reflective screen to reduce glare.[3]
  3. 3
    Adjust your monitor's glare, brightness, and contrast. If you work or study for long periods of time in front of a computer monitor or screen,[4] make sure the monitor is not too close to your eyes. Adjust the settings for brightness and contrast until you're comfortably viewing the screen. Some websites offer tools to help you make these adjustments.[5] The brightest light should be at the sides of the monitor. Any harsh light should form a 90° with your monitor to lessen the bright light hitting your eyes.
    • Reduce glare on your screen by closing blinds.[6]
  4. 4
    Adjust the color on your monitor (color temperature). The color should be appropriate for your environment's lighting. Avoid bluish light, which can cause eye fatigue because your eye is constantly adjusting to match it.[7] Instead, make sure the lighting in your room is similar to that of your monitor. Choose soft lights with limited natural light.
    • You should also adjust any flickering caused by a monitor's backlight. Your eye must constantly adjust to the flickering, leading to eye strain. If you can't fix the flickering, replace the monitor to solve your eye strain.[8]

Part 2
Strengthening and Focusing Your Eyes

  1. 1
    Strengthen your eyelids. You can actually strengthen the muscles surrounding your eyes, just as you can other muscles in your body. Strengthen your eyelids after working on the computer or as breaks between work. Close your eyes halfway down, paying attention to the constant trembling of your upper lids. This is a normal reaction from your eyes when you're not blinking.[9] Concentrate your efforts on stopping this trembling for about 5 seconds.
    • Lowering your eyelids halfway and focusing on stopping the trembling will make you squint, which can actually relieve eyestrain. Squinting temporarily reduces your pupil size and helps bend light easier so you can see better.
    • Avoid squinting constantly, which can lead to headaches and more eyestrain.[10]
  2. 2
    Relax and breathe. Once your eyelids are halfway lowered, slowly close them the rest of the way and relax your eyelids. Take a few breaths as you do this to increase the oxygen in your blood, as well as increase your overall circulation.[11] When you inhale, imagine the breezy oxygenated air coming through your nose into the eyes. Exhale through your mouth. Repeat this for one to two minutes.
    • The purpose of this exercise is to relax your eyes and strengthen the lids.[12]
  3. 3
    Practice focusing exercises (accommodation and convergence). Try focusing on objects at different distances, to get some relief from eyestrain. Take small breaks to focus your eyes and remind yourself to blink, which will hydrate the eyes. Practice focusing by holding a pen at arm's length. Focus on the tip of the pen while slowly bring the pen closer to your nose at a steady pace.[13] Do about 5 to 10 repetitions and mix it up by focusing on things that are far away as well as close.[14] This lets your eyes relax from any previous strain.
    • Focusing improves your vision, puts less strain on the eyes, and may help a twitch caused by a tired eye. When eyes have better visual acuity or are able to see with ease, less strain is put on the eyes, so eyes have less trouble adapting to typical focusing issues.[15]
  4. 4
    Give your eyes a break. Do this if your eyes feel strained because you've been looking a computer screen, reading, or doing other work requiring concentration. Try looking at the tip of your nose, then at an object that's about arm's length or 20 feet away, and look back to the tip of your nose. Repeat this 10 times. Try to change your focus every 15 to 30 minutes by looking in another direction.
    • Choose objects at different distances when you give your eyes a break. Or, you could also give your eyes a rest by getting up from the computer and walking around for a minute.[16]

Part 3
Relieving Dry Eyes

  1. 1
    Understand how tears moisturize your eyes. A major cause of eye strain are dry eyes. Tears are made up of 3 layers: oil/lipid (fat), water, and mucus layers. A problem with any of these layers can cause dry eyes. Once you understand what each layer does, you can narrow down potential problems that are causing your dry eyes. For example, a tear with not enough proteins to fight off bacteria can be dry due to irritation from chronic infections. The parts of the tear have the following functions:[17]
    • Mucous layer: This lowest layer is the base of the tear which gives stability, helping it stick to the eye. This layer keeps tears in your eyes, so they don't spill out.
    • Water layer: This middle layer gives needed electrolytes to tears to keep them strong. It contains bacteria-fighting enzymes and proteins. The watery nature of this layer allows tears to quickly cover the eye.
    • Oil/lipid (fat) layer: This outer layer seals the tear layers and covers the entire eye with enough tear film to protect the eye.
  2. 2
    Use an over-the-counter (OTC) artificial tears product. If your eyes feel dry after reading, knitting or staring at the computer for a particularly long time, use an artificial tear product. Since several brands are available, try a few to see which ones your eyes respond to best. You may need to combine more than one brand for relief. Realize that artificial tears aren't substitutes for natural tears; they simply relieve dryness by replacing the outer tear film layer. If you have chronic dry eyes, you'll need to keep using artificial tears even if your eyes are symptom free.[18] Some things to look for include:
    • Lubricating ingredients called hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC), glycerin, or polysorbate. These mimic tears because they have a similar surface tension which lets drops stick to the surface of the eye.
    • Preservative free drops which can reduce the risk of allergy or sensitivity of already dry eyes.[19]
    • Eye ointments which are useful lubricants during long periods when you can't use artificial tears. OTC eye drops, like Systane, can be used four to six times a day or as needed.
  3. 3
    Try medicated drops. Your eye doctor can prescribe medicated drops after examining the cause of your dry eyes.[20] These medications are substitutes for tears. These medications, like Hydroxypropyl methylcellulose and Carboxy Methylcellulose, consist of an artificial tear and other substances to lubricate the eyes. These drops relieve the symptoms. But, you'll need to reapply them frequently, four to si times daily or as needed. If you're prescribed a gel, you'll need to apply it once or twice a day.[21]
    • Always follow your doctor's recommendations about dosage.
    • If you wear contacts, take them out before applying the drops. Reinsert your contacts 30 minutes after using the drops.[22]
  4. 4
    Get an ointment. Ointments are usually used to lubricate the eyes, but several types exist. Antibiotic ointment can be used to treat chlamydia conjunctivitis,[23] dry eyes caused by diseases of the glands that make the lipid layer of tear film, or swelling from inflamed lids. Ointments are often used to lubricate the eyes during long periods of time when artificial tears can't be applied (like while you're sleeping).[24]
    • Common over the counter eye ointments are also available.[25] You may need to try several before finding an ointment that effectively relieves your symptoms.

Part 4
Preventing Eye Strain

  1. 1
    Cover your eyes. Avoid exposing your eyes directly to air, like a car heater, hair dryer, and air conditioner. You should also take care to wear glasses when going out in the sun and goggles when swimming. Protecting your eyes can keep moisture in them. You may also try wearing special glasses that form a moisture chamber around the eyes. This can create additional humidity.
    • Keep the humidity level in your home between 30-50% humidity. Add moisture to the dry indoor air during the winter by using a humidifier.
  2. 2
    Increase your Omega fatty acids and water intake.[26] Since tears are made up of water, mucous, and fat, increasing oils and water can moisturize your eyes.[27] Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to help tear integrity, increasing tear stability. Omega 6 fatty acids help reduce inflammatory factors, reducing dry eye symptoms.[28]
    • Women are recommended to drink nine cups of water a day, while men should drink 13 cups of water a day.[29]
  3. 3
    Blink often. Blinking helps freshen your eyes by spreading tear film evenly throughout your eye. This can relieve eye strain due to dry eye. It's especially important to remember to blink if you focus on a computer screen or monitor for much of the day. Blinking every time you remember to, or remembering to take a break every 15 minutes can help relieve eye strain symptoms.[30][31]
    • The blinking rate for people focused on computer screens decreases by 66%.[32]
  4. 4
    Know when to see your eye doctor or physician. You should see your doctor if treatments aren't working, you have chronically tired eyes, or have alarming symptoms along with fatigued eyes. Keeping your doctor informed of your concerns will make it easier for the doctor to answer your questions or address issues you may not know about. For instance, you may be suffering from a more complicated disease that causes tired eyes as a symptom. These may include:
    • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: This is a condition causing constant fatigue and vision problems which may be mistaken for tired eyes. Corrective lenses do not fix the vision changes (like blurriness) and eye exams are often normal. This condition requires medical care.[33]
    • Thyroid eye diseases: These can cause eye problems that may feel like tired eyes. Certain thyroid problems like Graves disease (where the body attacks its own thyroid tissue as well as eye tissue) can cause eye swelling.[34]
    • Astigmatism: This happens when the cornea is abnormally curved, causing blurry vision.[35]
    • Chronic Dry Eye Syndrome: This causes dry eyes because of systematic problems like diabetes or Sjogrens disease.[36]


  • Make sure prescription eyeglasses and contacts are current. You should regularly get your eyes examined.
  • You can also use a software called " f.lux" which tints the screen to some extent of orange color which helps to reduce eye strain.
  • If you wear contacts, look for drops designed specifically for use with contact lenses.
  • Avoid smoking which can deplete your eyes and cause other health problems.
  • Avoid rubbing your eyes, which can introduce bacteria into your eyes.
  • Use eye drops before performing visually demanding activities to prevent dry eyes.


  • If after trying these methods you still suffer from discomfort of your eyes, contact your optometrist for an eye examination.

Sources and Citations

Show more... (33)

Article Info

Categories: Eye Care