A businesswoman told me that her eyes feel very tired by the end of her long day at work. She wanted to know if there were exercises she could do to help her eyes to not become so tired. She did an internet search for “eye exercises” and was amazed at the confusing references she found. There were exercises to improve vision, to relieve vertigo, double vision, lazy eye, astigmatism, macular degeneration, and even YouTube videos to show you how to do the exercises.
Most all of that is hooey!
So, let’s consider this subject two ways. First, let’s consider why eyes feel tired. Then let’s discuss what eye exercises are for and what they can do.
There are two common ways that eyes feel tired. The first has to do with the surface of your eye. You hear a lot about Dry Eye conditions lately, because that is a very common problem that frequently troubles women more than men. Your eye is a ball in a socket, and it moves constantly throughout the day. It needs lubrication to do that smoothly and comfortably. The glands in your eyelids produce an oil that give your eyes this lubrication, and when you blink your eyelids, the muscles squeeze those glands to express oil onto your eye. If those glands get blocked or just don’t make enough oil to lubricate your eyes, they get tired. Your car’s engine can run with gasoline and no oil, but eventually it will grind to a halt unless you replace the oil. There are eye drops that do this for your eye and they can help relieve your tired eyes. The Dry Eye Institute can show you images of the oil glands in your eyelids and measure if this is a problem. Based on those images and measurements, we can recommend the best treatment to help with this.
The second reason that some people feel their eyes get tired is referred to as eye strain. There is a muscle in your eye that squeezes on the natural lens which focuses your eye. That muscle adds extra strength to help you focus for reading. Well, after a long day of intense reading, that muscle will get tired. You’d think that exercise can help that muscle become stronger just like other muscles in your body. Unfortunately, that’s usually not the case. As we age, the natural lens inside your eye hardens so the muscle can squeeze as hard as possible without being able to add the strength you need for reading. If your eye is weak to begin with, that focusing problem can occur even at a younger age. That’s when reading glasses add the extra strength you need. They allow that muscle to relax and keep your eyes from becoming tired after long periods of reading. When you come in for your eye exam, we can prescribe the ideal strength of the reading glasses to get rid of the tired feeling. Some people need the reading glasses all the time and others only use them when their eyes feel tired.
So, these are reasons to consider when your eyes feel tired. Now let’s think through what eye exercises can do.
Eye exercises are used to treat problems with the muscles that move your eyes. They do not help macular degeneration, lazy eyes, vertigo or other problems. The muscles that move your eyes must move them together, so your eyes point at the same place. When they don’t, your brain gets vision from two different locations, and sees double, or a ghost image.
When you look at something in the distance, your eyes point straight ahead. But when you read, both eyes must turn in, to point at what you are reading. That’s where some people can get tired eyes that exercises can help. The process of bringing your two eyes to turn in and point at what you want to read is called convergence. Some people can have a problem where they struggle to bring their eyes together for reading and this is called convergence insufficiency. When this is mild, it will make your eyes feel tired after long periods of reading. When it is more advanced, it will give you double vision when reading, unless you close one eye. Who wants to read like that?!
When we check your eyes, we can measure them for convergence insufficiency and decide how best to treat this. When it’s mild, you can do exercises called “push-ups” by repeatedly looking at a distance target, then something at arm’s length that you can pull toward your eyes until the letters become blurry or double. Then you look out at a distant target and repeat the process. You can wonder why pulling the target toward your eyes is called “push-ups” but doing this repeatedly can help strengthen the muscles that turn your eyes inward for reading. If your problem is more significant, we add a prism to your reading glasses, and it solves the problem without the need for exercise. Don’t you wish you could avoid other exercises so easily!
Remember to mention that your eyes get tired when you see your eye doctor and expect these things to be evaluated to help you find the best treatment to keep your eyes comfortable. At SureVision Eye Centers and the Dry Eye Institute, we want you to have a lifetime of the best possible vision.