Does Stress Play a Part in Vision Problems?

Your eyes hurt and you’re sometimes having trouble seeing in the evenings after you finish work. There’s been a lot going on, but you feel pretty good excluding your eyes. You think it might be a good idea to see your eye doctor, but could it just be stress? Find out.

Explaining the Physical Effect of Stress on Your Body

Stress is a natural response to a “threat” in your immediate environment. Before modern society, that meant something dangerous like a wild animal or a hostile neighboring tribe. Today it means demanding work projects, financial insecurity, relationship problems, or a big life change, like moving to a new city.

Unfortunately for us, the same physical processes are initiated when we experience these “non-physical” forms of stress. During “fight-or-flight” moments, adrenaline increases our heart rate, boosts our metabolism, and dilates our pupils, all to improve our ability to respond quickly in a moment of need. But not only are these effects mostly unnecessary for most of us, when they go unused for long periods they physically wear down your health. This has specific consequences for the health of your eyes.

Eye Conditions That May Be Caused by Stress

Stress typically causes these temporary eye problems. As always be sure to see your eye doctor if any issues with your eyes persist longer than two weeks.

     - Blurred vision—pupil dilation lets more light in, so you can see better temporarily, but too much light exposure can affect your vision. 

     - Sensitivity to light—stress affects the brain and nervous system. This is why you experience headaches sometimes when you’re stressed. It also may make you more sensitive to light exposure and lead to eye strain. 

     - Eye twitching and spasms—your muscles tense up when you’re stressed. This includes the muscles surrounding your eyes, which sometimes leads to spasms and twitching. 

     - Dry eyes—blood flow is diverted to the most essential parts of the body when you’re experiencing stress. As a result, tear production may slow down.

Reducing Your Stress with Some Helpful Tips

Naturally, these conditions serve as a nuisance when you have plenty to do, but the good news is, they’re easy to combat. Simply try out these basic stress relief methods:

     - Sleep at least 8 hours a night

     - Switch to a diet filled with whole grains, fresh produce, and lean proteins

     - Exercise three times per week

     - Use deep breathing techniques and meditate

     - Spend time in nature

     - Relax (take a bath, read, write a journal entry, etc.)

If you take measures to reduce your stress and find you’re still having problems with your eyes, then something else might be causing the problem. Use your VSP Individual Vision Plan to schedule an eye exam with your doctor. If you don’t have vision insurance, find out how VSP can help you save on your next eye exam or pair of glasses.