HEADACHE AND THE EYE
A variety of eye problems are associated with the onset of headaches. Squinting, straining, or pressure and swelling of the eye can all trigger pain in parts of the head. Common eye problems that can cause or contribute to headaches are described in more detail below.
Two main eye structures work together to focus images on the retina: the lens and the cornea. Sometimes, problems with the eye interfere with this focusing mechanism. The muscles then need to work harder, which can cause eye strain. Underlying conditions that can cause this to happen to include the following:
Astigmatism – This refers to when the cornea is an irregular shape, causing objects to appear blurry. A person with this condition may then squeeze the eyes in order to focus on what they are trying to see, which can contribute to the onset of a headache.
Long-sightedness – The clinical term for long-sightedness is hyperopia. Here, an image is focused somewhere behind the eye instead of the retina. Nearby objects then appear blurry, meaning a person tends to use his muscles excessively in order to focus on them, which, again, can cause headaches.
Presbyopia – Here, the eye lens hardens as a result of aging, causing difficulty focusing, sore eyes, and headaches.
These types of eye conditions can usually be corrected with the use of the right power of glasses.
Other causes of eye strain include any activity that requires intense use of the eye for long periods or in difficult conditions such as reading, writing, driving, and straining to see in dim light.
COMPUTER VISION SYNDROME
Digital device screens such as computer monitors and Smartphones are a common cause of eye strain. People who look at these screens for more than two hours at a time, every day, are the most likely to experience eye strain. Looking at a computer screen is more likely to strain the eyes than looking at printed material because people do not tend to blink as much while using a computer screen, which helps to keep the eye moist. There is also poor contrast between the background and text and the screens give off glare or reflection.
Referred to as Computer Vision Syndrome or Computer Stress Syndrome, it involves the manifestation of a variety of symptoms such as eye strain, headache, and may at times be indicated by indirect symptoms such as the neck, shoulder, back and wrist pains, general fatigue and decreased visual efficiency.
WHAT CAN I DO TO PREVENT COMPUTER VISION SYNDROME?
- Stop periodically to blink, stretch, and look away from the computer screen.
- Sit approximately 24 inches away from the screen; sitting too close or far may increase eyestrain.
- Arrange room lighting such that glare on the screen is minimum. The use of an anti-reflective filter would be a good choice.
- Check your posture from time to time to reduce neck, shoulder, and wrist pains. Keep the wrists straight while typing and not supported on sharp edges.
- After every 20 minutes of work look away from the screen for at least 20 seconds.
- Use artificial tears to lubricate your eyes periodically, prefer the use of preservative-free tears.
- Do eye exercises whenever possible – Close eyelids and roll the eyes behind your closed lids once clockwise & once anti-clockwise. Take a deep breath & open eyes while releasing the breath.
Glaucoma causes increased pressure in the eye leading to damage to the optic nerve. This then leads to a loss of vision because the optic nerve carries information to the brain. A fluid called aqueous humor, which usually plumps up the cornea, builds up due to a blockage in the drainage area at the back of the eye. This leads to increased pressure that can damage the optic nerve and lead to severe headaches, blurred vision, vomiting, and watery eyes. Glaucoma cannot be prevented, but proper treatment can slow its progression. It is therefore essential that the disorder is medically investigated.
Papilloedema refers to the swelling of the optic disc as a result of increased intracranial pressure. Several conditions can cause this to happen including a swelling, hemorrhage, or tumor in the brain. Aside from head pain, the person may experience double and blurred vision, although sometimes no symptoms develop. If a headache results, it may be more intense when coughing or sneezing and less painful when lying down.
Cluster headaches are excruciating attacks of pain in one side of the head, often felt around the eye. Cluster headaches are rare. Anyone can get them, but they’re more common in men and tend to start when a person is in their 30s or 40s.
Ophthalmoplegic migraines, also known as ocular migraines, are an uncommon type of migraine headache in which the eye region is the focal point of the pain. The headache is accompanied by temporary eye muscle weakness or paralysis, which may persist for days to weeks after the resolution of the headache. The first occurrence of ophthalmoplegic migraine typically takes place during childhood. Intermittent attacks may persist into adulthood.