How stress impacts your vision
Most of us are aware that too much stress can negatively impact our health contributing to weight gain, anxiety, high blood pressure and increased risk of heart related incidents. Did you know that same stress can also have a detrimental effect on your vision? According to research, mental stress can affect your eyes and lead to visual distortions — and even put you at risk of developing sight-threatening eye diseases. Before you get stressed out by vision changes, read on to learn what to look for and how to avoid stress-related vision problems.
How does stress cause vision problems?
When you feel stressed, worried or fearful, your fight-or-flight response kicks in. Your body gets ready to respond to what might be a potentially threatening situation, raising your cortisol, increasing your adrenaline and getting you ready to battle a threat or run from it. The trouble is everyday events that contribute to stress such as traffic jams or being late for work can cause the body to react the same way it would to a life threatening situation. What’s worse? Even if you’re having fun riding a roller coaster or watching a scary movie, your body perceives your rise in heart rate or change in breathing the same way. Over time, this constant state of stress can negatively impact mental and physical health and even your eyes. High levels of adrenaline can cause pressure on the eyes and this may lead to blurred vision, eye strain or headaches. If you are under constant stress, this build-up of pressure inside your eyes can put you at risk for more serious eye conditions that can increase the risk of vision loss..
These eye conditions include:
What are common stress-related vision problems?
Before stress contributes to serious eye diseases it can also present as common vision problems.
Some common vision problems that may be caused by or aggravated by stress include:
- Blurry vision
- Sensitivity to bright light
- Eye twitching
- Dry eye
- Excessive tearing
- Eye strain
- Eye floaters
Since these conditions are also caused by other vision problems and are often aggravated by stress, it’s important to see your eye doctor for a routine eye exam to find out the route cause to any eyesight changes.
Your vision stress might have a name.
There is a form of visual stress known as NPVS— Near Point Vision Stress. This condition affects some individuals who spend a lot of time reading or using computers. Unlike regular computer eye strain which can occur from spending too much time without blinking or blue light exposure, near point visual stress is a problem with the visual system itself. It occurs when the visual skills needed for prolonged periods of near-vision focussing aren’t as developed as they should be so that reading, learning, computer use and other near-vision tasks strain the eyes. This can lead to eye strain, eye fatigue and headaches after extensive reading or screen time. This stress on the visual centers of the brain can trigger the same fight or flight response that can cause blurred vision and may even contribute to some behavioral and attention issues. (Some vision issues can exacerbate problems with attention and focussing like ADHD). NPVS isn’t temporary and usually benefits from vision therapy which helps strengthen the skills needed for prolonged periods of near focussing. If you suspect that you or your child suffer from NPVS talk to your eye doctor about a treatment plan.
Count to 20 for 20/20
When you go about your day try to take a time-out when you notice stress creeping in and affecting your heart rate and your breathing—signaling that your stress hormones are probably elevating. Blurry vision has many causes and while glaucoma and other serious eye diseases aren’t necessarily caused by stress, it can increase the negative impact these conditions cause. Take some time each day for self-care to manage stress and anxiety by engaging in activities known to lower cortisol such as yoga, walking in nature, or spending time with your pet. Try to stay off screens for at least part of the day if possible. Yes, that includes your phone! When you do engage in screen-time consider choosing something that makes you laugh out loud and save the adrenaline pumping scary movies for Halloween.
Stressed about your eyesight? Don’t be! Make an appointment to get your eyes checked or discuss any changes in vision that are worrying you.