Mental Health and Your Eyes

May 24, 2024
The ocular impact of stress may range from mild discomfort to severe, debilitating vision loss.
Caring for Your Eyes-Mental Health

Everyone is familiar with stress but not everyone is aware of the impact it can have on eyes and vision. Stress is a physical, mental or emotional reaction caused by a change that interferes with the body’s normal equilibrium.

How does stress impact the body?

When anxious, frightened, or stressed, the body will start producing hormones like adrenaline, which speeds up your heart rate, boosts your metabolisms and your brain will direct more blood to essential functions like your internal organs and less blood to your extremities.

Thus, your eyes can suffer because your brain will cause your pupils to dilate. Essentially, your body thinks this response will get more light into your eyes so you can see any potential threats more clearly.

When does stress begin to impact the eye?

When you’re stressed out for a long time, the constant dilation makes you sensitive to light and can cause serious strain on your eyes. Plus, the tension you feel will cause the muscles in and around your eyes to tighten – creating a feeling of soreness or twitching.

Some stress-related eye problems include:

  • Twitching in your eye or eyelid, in some cases this is myokymia.
    • Myokymia is thought to be brought on by stress and it usually involves the lower eyelid twitching uncontrollably. Click here to learn more.
  • Flashing or sparkling lights, darkening of vision centrally or peripherally could be a migraine with aura.
    • Stress, hormonal triggers in women, allergies and more can cause a migraine with aura. An eye exam by a doctor of optometry is necessary to rule out other causes of flashing light in vision, such as a retinal tear or detachment, or damage inside the eye. Click here to learn more.

If you ever experience an intense headache coupled with a blind spot in the central area of vision, or peripheral (side) vision, in one eye that lasts less than 60 minutes – this is an ocular migraine that should be treated by a doctor of optometry as soon as possible. An ocular migraine can mimic other serious conditions, so it’s vital to see an eye doctor to assess the reduced blood flow or spasms of blood vessels in the retina or behind the eye. Click here to learn more.

Other symptoms that signify that your stress is boiling over and impacting your vision include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Eye strain/stress
  • Eyelid twitching and spasms
  • Eye floaters
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Dry eyes
  • Excessive tearing

What do I do now?

To combat the effects of stress, the AOA recommends patients try out basic remedies to lower their stress level. Exercising, getting a full eight hours of sleep at night, eating a healthy diet, spending more time outdoors, and meditation are great ways to relieve stress.

But, of course, that’s easier said than done. Remember that your doctor of optometry is there to help you champion your health by finding the right treatment plan for you. From vision therapy, special glasses or contact lens prescriptions to dry eye treatments, doctors of optometry have so many tools at their disposal to determine what helps you live your best life.

If any of the above symptoms continue to persist, visit your eye doctor for immediate attention. Detecting and treating problems early can help maintain good vision for the rest of your life.

To find a local AOA doctor of optometry, visit the doctor locator.

Could computer vision syndrome or digital eye strain be a factor?

According to Mental Health America, exposure to a constant news cycle can cause anxiety about what lies ahead and social media can cause depression as well as reduced self-esteem. With almost one in three people in the U.S. exposed to seven or more hours of screen time each day, it’s not uncommon for many individuals experience eye discomfort and vision problems.

Put it all together and there’s a chance that your stress is stemming from being plugged in. In this digital age, there’s ways to practice healthier screen time and take care of our eyes.

The most common symptoms associated with CVS or digital eyestrain are:

  • Eyestrain.
  • Headaches.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Dry eyes.
  • Neck and shoulder pain.

Solutions to digital screen-related vision problems are varied and can usually be alleviated by obtaining regular eye care and making changes in how the screen is viewed. Learn more about how to alleviate symptoms.

Find a Doctor of Optometry

Find a Doctor of Optometry

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