Patient Education Series: Headaches and Eyestrain

Communicating with patients is one of the most difficult, yet important things we as healthcare professionals do.

It can be difficult to communicate with patients in a manner that reduces technical terminology and jargon. We often provide our patients with pamphlets in our offices, attempting to shed light on important eye diseases and conditions, but how effective are they?

Have you ever stopped to read one of those pamphlets yourself?

Throughout this series, my goal is to provide templates to help explain common eye-related conditions in an easy to understand, user friendly manner. Perhaps it will also provide a source of inspiration as you attempt to create your own patient education materials for your office and on your social media channels.

For patients complaining of headaches, it is important for them to understand how the eyes and visual system may be a contributing factor:

Just because you don’t wear glasses or corrective lenses doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t currently have a vision problem.

As we continue to age, so do our eyes, and they can develop vision-related problems that we may not
notice. Those who suffer from regular headaches and eye strain should definitely consider having their vision checked.

Common eye strain is generally caused when tiny muscles in the eyes are working harder than they should be due to a visual defect, which can cause headaches. While there’s a myriad of different eye and vision-related disorders we could discuss, those most commonly associated with headaches include:

  • Astigmatism – with an irregularly shaped cornea, people often squint to focus which leads them to experience head pain
  • Cataracts – a clouding of the lenses seen mostly in older people that blurs the vision causing the eyes to work harder and cause headaches
  • Glaucoma – this incurable (but treatable) condition has an unknown origin and causes pressure build-up that is relatable to both headaches and eye pain
  • Hyperopia – commonly called farsightedness, an inability to see objects closeup while far away objects appear in focus. The reason many people get “cheaters or readers” at the pharmacy and avoid the issue causing headaches and eye strain.
  • Presbyopia – with age, the lens can harden, become less flexible and decrease focus on objects up close causing eye soreness and frequent headaches

As is the case with problems like being farsighted, getting over-the-counter, non-prescription eyewear can be like putting a bandaid on a large gash as a temporary fix. In the case of covering a wound, at least it should eventually heal, but eye conditions are likely to worsen as time goes on.

Excessive Screen Time

Headaches and eye strain could also be due to excessive screen time, especially in today’s technologically drenched society where computers and handheld devices are omnipresent in our everyday lives.

The overuse of these devices can cause not only headaches, but contributes to dry eyes, blurry vision, neck and back pain.

To help relieve this type of stress and the pain it can sometimes cause, you need to give your eyes a much-needed break from these bright, electronic lights emitting devices.

Put them down, get up and get moving. Take time away from your ever-present screens, get your blood flowing throughout your body and increase circulation throughout your workday, which will help both your eyes and brain to function better.

Use the “20-20-20” rule if you’re stuck behind your desk all day.

This computer related code asks continuous users to stop staring at their screens. Every twenty minutes, users should focus on an object around twenty feet in the distance for at least twenty seconds. This allows eyes to refocus and relax from their semi-permanent state of intensely staring at a screen a foot from our faces.

Good News

Thankfully, most vision problems are easily fixed with corrective lenses or contacts. If an optometrist finds nothing wrong with your eyesight and eye health, he or she can then direct you to seek other medical attention to investigate the cause of your headaches.

Either way, it’s important to seek assistance if you’re suffering from regular headaches and/or eye strain.

If it’s found you have a vision related problem, not only will you see better, your headaches and other problems could disappear, or at the very least, become less problematic.

About Tara Heath

Tara Heath
Tara Heath is a 37 year old health professional and works as a freelancer writer in the evenings. Her writing focuses mainly on health, such as skincare and how to live a healthy lifestyle overall. She lives in Burbank, Ca. with her husband and two beautiful daughters ages eight and twelve.

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