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Surgeon David Allamby FRCS(Ed), FRCOphth
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Are you up to your eyes in it? Here's how stress can impact your vision

Learn more about vision correction

17
Nov
2017

stressed student

Stress.  We all feel it sometimes right? But perhaps you can't seem to escape it?  Whether it is at work, home or school, did you know anxiety can have an impact on your vision too?

The Times have recently discussed the negative impact of taking multiple exams over a long period of time on students’ vision and how this could even cause the eye condition known as glaucoma.  It is important to be aware of the symptoms your eyes may be showing due to stress during moments in your life when you are feeling particularly overwhelmed and under pressure.

What does stress do to your eyes?

Whilst we all experience stress during our lifetimes, but constant anxiety can take its toll on our eyes, as well as the rest of our body.

dilated eye

When you are feeling stressed or anxious your body will begin to activate its stress response, this is what scientists call ‘fight or flight’ mode.  As this happens your body will start producing hormones like adrenaline, which will then speed up your heart rate, begin to stimulate your nervous system and heighten your senses.  As your eyes are sensory organs, they are directly impacted by stress.

In a state of anxiety your brain will send signals that will cause your pupils to dilate.  This enables more light to get into your eyes, which as a result is meant to allow you to see potential dangers more quickly.  Whilst it is great that our bodies respond in this way when there is a genuine danger in front of us, it often isn’t helpful for the day to day problems that inflict this stress response.  In addition, being stressed can often leave you feeling tense, and that can mean your eyes are too, as the muscles around them can tighten, causing soreness and twitching.

What are the symptoms of stress affecting your vision?

  • eye floatersEye twitching
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Eye strain
  • Eye floaters
  • Difficulty to focus/blurred vision
  • Tunnel vision
  • Overly dry or wet eyes

If you are not stressed on a frequent basis then your vision should return back to normal, undamaged.  However if you find yourself stressed out for a long time, these changes to your sight can become harmful, as it becomes harder for your vision to recover.  For example the constant dilation can cause your eye to become particularly sensitive to light, and become seriously strained as a result.

How is exam stress impact students’ sight?

With students facing coursework deadlines and exams, their stress levels are likely to be high.  With anxiety causing an increased pressure in the eye, concern has been raised around students chances of developing the complex eye disease, glaucoma.  Although eye pressure doesn’t alone cause glaucoma, the Glaucoma Research Foundation considers it a significant risk factor, further advising that individuals diagnosed with high eye pressure should have regular eye tests to check for the symptoms of the onset of this disease.

What can you do to help eye problems affected by stress?

If you are feeling stressed and have noticed any of the above symptoms, the best thing you can do is to try and relax.  Easier said than done right?  But perhaps try some of the following to help you start to de-stress

  • Exercising
  • Taking a long, warm bath
  • Taking slow deep breaths
  • Meditating

If you are still having troubles with your vision over a period of time, it is important you visit your GP to detect any potential issues with your eyes.

Think you need an eye check up? Here are 9 important signs. 

relax

Sources

The Times

Glaucoma Research Foundation

All About Eyes

Read more for posts on eye health, laser eye surgery, and vision, here

By: David
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