"When you experience stress, your body follows a fight or flight response and reacts in a number of different ways. This will often have a negative impact on your body and your eyes are no exception."
Dr Andy Hepworth
This Stress Awareness Month (April 2021), leading eye expert Dr Andy Hepworth from Essilor.co.uk, shares four surprising ways that stress can affect eyesight… and offers advice on how to reduce its impact.
Stress affects both physical and mental wellbeing – including, perhaps surprisingly, eyes.
In the main, eyesight issues caused by stress are often temporary and they will ease once the causes of stress are reduced, but as with many conditions, being overwhelmed by stress can sometimes lead to other health problems, so if eye issues don’t lessen a visit to an optician is advisable.
The key ways stress can impact eyes include:
1. Blurred vision and light sensitivity: Our pupils will naturally dilate in a stressful situation to enhance vision so that threats can be seen clearly. However, high levels of adrenaline can cause pressure on the eyes, resulting in temporary blurred vision. You may also find that your eyes become more sensitive to light, with bright light hurting your eyes and making it harder to see.
2. Eye strain: Whilst eye strain is more commonly caused by digital screen usage, it can also result from stress. This is because when we are stressed we tense our muscles – this might lead to headaches, jaw ache from teeth grinding and muscular pain. People with long-term anxiety can suffer from eye strain during the day on a regular basis.
3. Eye twitches: Another temporary sign of stress can be eye twitches. These also occur because of muscle tension, as well as tiredness and will often occur in just one eye. Eye twitches can be extremely irritating and you may feel conscious that other people can see the contraction but they are often something that only you will be aware of and will go away on their own.
4. Dry or watery eyes: There are a number of ways that stress can contribute to both dry and watery eyes. This could be from a weakening of the immune system or lack of sleep. You may experience one or the other dependent on how your body responds.
"As we begin to emerge from, what has been for many of us, one of the most stressful periods of our lives, you may have felt the impact of stress both physically and emotionally. But did you realise the dramatic affect it could be having on your vision?
“When you experience stress, your body will follow a fight or flight response and will react in a number of different ways. This will often have a negative impact on your body and your eyes are no exception. Many people may not realise that eye issues can be so intrinsically linked to stress and put it down to other factors. But in reality, stress may be impacting your day-to-day in many more ways than you think.
“Of course there is no quick fix for dealing with stress, but if you are concerned that your stress and anxiety levels are having an impact on your eyesight then you should consider it a warning sign that you need to take steps to get things a little bit more under control. A good starting point is working out which stress management techniques work best for you. This could be:
- Meditation and breathing techniques
- Talking to a friend
- Indulging in some self-care and a thorough bedtime winddown routine
- Taking regular breaks from your screen during the day – going outside to give your eyes a rest and to benefit from fresh air and the outdoors (ecotherapy)
- A digital detox
“If you are concerned about your stress levels and your eye sight or have been experiencing vision problems for a prolonged period of time then you should visit your GP or optician for a consultation.”
For more information and eye health advice visit www.essilor.co.uk