It is not uncommon to experience headaches after completing visually demanding activities, such as extended reading, discriminating very fine print, or reading in low light conditions. There are a few vision and eye related conditions that can cause these headaches, most of which can be helped with glasses, contact lenses, or exercises that strengthen the focusing system of the eye. Some vision-related headaches are a sign of a more serious ocular or systemic health condition. Whether they last for hours, or only for a few minutes at a time, vision-associated headaches are worth having evaluated by an optometrist. Continue reading to learn more about the most common ocular causes for headaches.
Binocular Vision Problems and Headaches
The concept of the two eyes working together to efficiently perform visual tasks is referred to as “binocular vision.” Without properly functioning binocular vision, highly visual tasks like reading can be especially difficult. In most people with binocular vision problems, long periods of reading will result in headaches, eye strain, or even double vision. These problems can be caused by accommodation (the ability of the eyes to focus on a close object), convergence (the ability of the eyes to move inward in order to look at close-up material), or ocular misalignment (the presence of an eye-turn or lazy eye). Some conditions can be greatly improved with eye glasses, while others may require some vision therapy exercises that help the eyes work better as a team. If you talk your doctor about your symptoms at a comprehensive eye examination, they can perform a series of specialized tests that can identify what specific binocular vision problems are present. They can also give recommendations for treating these conditions and resolving the headaches associated with them.
Farsightedness, also called hyperopia, is one of the most common causes of eye strain and headaches. Just like myopia (aka nearsightedness), hyperopia is a form of refractive error that is a result of inaccuracy in the optical system of the eye. In hyperopia, it is more difficult to clearly see objects up close, while things in the distance can be easily seen. In many cases, farsightedness is difficult for the average person to identify, especially in children, because the focusing system of the eye works hard to overcome the blurriness of close objects. However, the focusing system is only able to do this for short periods of time before it becomes fatigued and results in a headache and associated eye strain. Glasses and contact lenses can easily manage hyperopia and can greatly reduce the uncomfortable symptoms farsightedness causes.
In some unfortunate cases, vision-related headaches can be associated with serious health concerns. For example, neurological conditions such as increased pressure around the brain, a compressive tumor, or an aneurysm, can result in serious headaches that oftentimes have symptoms of blurred vision or visual disturbances. Occasionally frontal headaches can occur due to dangerously high blood pressure; these headaches may or may not have vision related symptoms. If your eye care provider identifies one of these causes as the reason behind your headaches, it will need to be immediately addressed by a neurologist or emergency care doctor.