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Can Eye Strain Last for Days?

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a young woman rubbing her eyes due to eye strain from her computer

Increased technology usage, such as prolonged screen time, can cause eye strain, commonly known as digital eye strain. It’s a feeling you get when your eyes tire from intense use. It can cause discomfort but usually isn’t severe. 

Your eyes generally feel better once you stop or take frequent breaks. However, eye strain can last several days if you don’t address the cause. Eye strain can also take longer to resolve if accompanied by other symptoms, such as headaches or dry eyes. 

If you have constant eye strain, even after taking steps to reduce it, visit your eye doctor, as there might be an underlying cause. 

What Is Eye Strain?

Eye strain occurs when your eyes become tired or irritated from intense focusing or looking at something up close. Without breaks, your eyes don’t get a chance to relax, which causes eye fatigue and eye strain. 

These activities may include:

  • Reading a book
  • Looking at a computer screen for long periods
  • Driving long distance

Causes of Eye Strain

Digital eye strain or computer vision syndrome is a condition that occurs when your eyes become tired or sore from prolonged use of electronic devices such as computers, smartphones, or tablets. 

The most common causes of eye strain can include:

  • Focusing on a single task for a long time
  • An inadequately lit environment—too dim or too bright
  • Stress or feeling tired
  • Poor vision or eye problems like dry eyes
  • Poor posture when viewing a digital device
  • Infrequent blinking
  • Holding digital devices too far or too close to your eyes
  • Exposure to extended amounts of blue light, usually emitted from digital devices
  • Improper lighting on viewing screens 

Symptoms of Eye Strain

Symptoms of eye strain can include those in the eyes and the body, such as:

  • Eye fatigue
  • Sore eyes
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Dry eyes or watery eyes
  • Headaches
  • Neck, shoulder, or back pain
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Difficulty concentrating
A young man taking off his glasses and rubbing his eyes due to pain from eye strain

How Long Does Eye Strain Last?

There is no exact answer to how long eye strain lasts, but generally, it doesn’t last long. For example, if you step away from a screen, eye strain can go away immediately or within an hour. 

Eye strain can’t typically cause long-term damage to your eyes. However, if you have frequent eye strain that lasts for hours or days, it may indicate underlying conditions, such as:

Dry Eye Disease

Dry eyes result when your eyes can’t provide lubrication because of insufficient tears or because tears don’t work properly. Lack of lubrication and moisture can cause eye strain. Treatment and relief from dry eye can include dry eye therapy.


Myopia or nearsightedness is a condition where far-away objects appear blurry. Myopia symptoms include headaches, eye strain, eye fatigue, and squinting. 

Without treatment, eye strain can worsen. Prescription glasses and contact lenses can correct myopia and slow its progression.


Farsightedness or hyperopia can also cause eye strain as close-up objects appear blurry. These can include books, phones, and computer screens.


Presbyopia is nearsightedness that occurs in older adults as the eye’s lens becomes less flexible and loses its ability to focus on nearby objects. Eye strain is a symptom of presbyopia. 


Astigmatism is when the eye’s lens has an irregular curve which affects how light enters and causes blurry or distorted vision and eye strain. 

Ways To Reduce Digital Eye Strain

Eye strain doesn’t have to last for days; it can be prevented or reduced by taking the following measures:

  • Frequent breaks. Include the 20-20-20 rule to shift your focus by looking at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. Or you can take a walk outside in natural light during a break. 
  • Screen settings. Proper screen positioning should be arm’s length from your eyes and at the level of your eyes or slightly below. Lighting and glare can cause eye strain, so adjusting the brightness and using a filter can reduce glare and eye strain.
  • Use eye drops. Looking at a screen can affect your blink rate. Blinking helps to lubricate the eyes. You can use eye drops or remember to blink often to reduce eye strain. 
  • Air quality. Improve air quality to prevent tear evaporation by using a humidifier or turning down the heating or cooling. 
  • Proper eyewear. You can reduce eye strain by wearing computer glasses or anti-fatigue lenses
  • Practice good eye care habits. Reduce the time spent on digital devices and visit your eye doctor for regular eye exams. 

Relief from Eye Strain

When you follow the above measures to reduce eye strain, it should be temporary only. And if it persists, there could be an underlying cause that needs further investigation. 

Book an appointment with Henderson Vision Centre to get to the root of the problem so you can enjoy clear and comfortable vision. 

Written by Dr. Melina Chow

Dr. Chow received her Doctor of Optometry from the University of Waterloo in 2005. She has been an integral part of the Henderson Vision team for over 15 years, moving back to her hometown immediately upon graduating from university. When she isn’t at the clinic, Dr. Chow runs circles trying to keep up with her two energetic boys. Once she’s had enough cardio, she enjoys baking and planning her next vacation.
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