What is asthenopia? Discover the symptoms, treatment, etc.

What is asthenopia?


Asthenopia is the official name referring to eye strain or fatigue.

Open book in over the legs of a person that is reding it with astheponia

What are the symptoms of asthenopia?

Symptoms of asthenopia include aching or burning eyes after activities such as reading or looking at a digital screen. Although not a medical disease per se, asthenopia can lead to many symptoms that can affect your quality of life. 

As computers and tablets are becoming more prevalent in our daily lives, such as at work and in school, the number of people who experience eye fatigue and digital eye strain is on the continuous rise. If you spend a lot of time on the computer, you may have symptoms of asthenopia. These symptoms start sooner and may last for prolonged time periods when your eyes do not have a chance to rest. Moreover, these symptoms may begin while you are working but can continue even afterward.

Symptoms linked to asthenopia include:

Asthenopia symptoms are usually experienced later in the day than in the morning after a good night’s sleep and when your eyes are well rested.

What are the causes of asthenopia?

Eye strain can happen despite you having healthy eyes or an accurate prescription from the optometrist. This is because your eye muscles can get fatigued, just like other bodily muscles. 

Extended focus on near objects 

The sustained and extended focus of your eyes on nearby objects, such as when you are reading on your computer or your hardcopy textbook, leads to eye strain (due to continuous effort on your eye muscles responsible for focusing). Hence, computer vision syndrome and extended periods of staring at smartphones are the most common causes of asthenopia.

When you work on a computer, your blinking rate tends to decrease, thus worsening symptoms of eye fatigue. If you have dry eyes, you would be more susceptible to eye fatigue. Bear in mind that while asthenopia is often caused by near work, it can also arise due to any activity that necessitates a long period of focused attention, such as driving.

Too bright or dim lighting

Excess glare from bright lighting can lead to eye fatigue. Ensure that the light is pointed toward your desk, not into your eyes when working or studying. Natural, understated and soft light is gentler on the eyes than harsh artificial lighting.

Eye muscle imbalance 

An imbalance between the muscles of both eyes can lead to more strain on the eyes to keep vision clear and can cause eye fatigue. You may even suffer from blurry or double vision too. 

Convergence insufficiency (difficulty in focusing eye muscles when looking at near), esophoria (inward deviation of the eye/s) and exophoria (outward deviation of the eye/s) are prevalent binocular vision disorders that strain the visual system and make it more challenging to maintain clear vision. 

The regular strain on the accommodative system (focusing mechanism of the eyes) leads to persistent symptoms of asthenopia [1]. Your eye care professional may recommend vision therapy for you to train these eye muscles responsible for focusing.

Uncorrected refractive error

Uncorrected astigmatism, myopia (nearsightedness) and hypermetropia (farsightedness) can lead to eye strain and fatigue. This cause can be rectified with a pair of glasses prescribed by your eye care professional.

Children are vulnerable to asthenopia as they often fail to note and mention that their vision is not as clear as it should be. [1]. If you are a student required to spend hours on the computer or on your books, or if your work demands constant screen time, you should attend regular comprehensive eye checks to maintain optimal eye health as subtle changes may go unnoticed and only picked up by a trained professional. 

Subtle changes may go unnoticed and only picked up by a trained professional, making regular comprehensive eye checks all the more important for timely identification and possible interventions when asthenopia is present. 

How is asthenopia diagnosed?

See an eye care professional to have your eyes checked thoroughly, particularly if you are experiencing symptoms.

Your eye care professional would question you on the type of symptoms you are experiencing and when they may exacerbate. 

Prior to your visit, note when you encounter the most intense eye strain and what seems to relieve it. Self awareness would aid your eye care professional in recommending the most suitable treatment.

What is the treatment for asthenopia?

Medical treatment for asthenopia is sometimes needed when symptoms are severe or related to an underlying condition [2].

Treatment can vary, based on the cause and may include:

  • glasses
  • contact lenses
  • refractive surgery
  • Prescription and/or non prescription eye drops [2]

How can you prevent asthenopia?

The best way to prevent asthenopia is to curb activities that lead to eye strain. Take regular breaks when engaging in tasks that necessitate uninterrupted concentration like  reading, driving, or looking at a computer screen. Restrict the amount of time you spend on a computer or digital device when possible.

Regular comprehensive eye exams are key to diagnose and treat any vision problems.  If you have reached the age of 40, you may be more vulnerable to eye diseases or vision changes. Thus, have an ophthalmic exam before that if you experience any changes in your vision or encounter eye issues.

Adjust your device settings to reduce eye strain

  • Alter your font and background color to raise comfort and legibility
  • Install glare-reducing filters on digital screens
  • Wear special computer glasses with a prescription, if needed
  • Wear blue light blocking glasses or use blue light filters for increased comfort when reading on a screen 

Change your lifestyle 

  • Apply artificial tears or cold compresses when you have dry or irritated eyes
  • Take regular breaks, abide by the 20-20-20 rule (every 20 minutes, for 20 seconds, look at something at least 20 feet away).
  • Adjust the height of your desk, chair and screen to ensure a comfortable posture.
  • Ensure that your desk lighting is bright but not too harsh. 
  • Keep desk lighting away from the eyes.
  • Blink regularly. 
  • Get enough sleep and remain hydrated.
  • Maintain good air circulation to avoid dry eyes


[1] O. D. Sonia Kelley, “Asthenopia: Causes, symptoms and treatment,” All About Vision, 10-Aug-2022. [Online]. Available: https://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/asthenopia/. [Accessed: 31-Aug-2022]. 

[2] A. Santos-Longhurst, “Asthenopia: Remedies for tired eyes, fatigue, strain, and more,” Healthline, 18-Dec-2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.healthline.com/health/asthenopia#medical-treatment. [Accessed: 31-Aug-2022]. 



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